When Troy Jorge was a teenager, he dreamed of being a fashion designer, not a chef.
“My friends give me shit,” says the native of New Bedford, MA, who still hasn’t lost his thick New England accent despite several years in some of Chicago’s top kitchens. “They say that they can see the fashion designer in me in my food.”
But while Jorge says that sewing was “one of the only things” he was good at in school, the self-proclaimed former punk kid found himself chucked out of his favorite class and stumbling, then, into food.
“I rerouted my classes,” he says. “I got a job in a restaurant and kind of caught the bug and then went to culinary school after that. And then the rest is history, I guess, from there.”
“History,” in Jorge’s case, meant moving to Boston’s Clio and Ostra, and then to Chicago’s three-Michelin-starred Grace. Today, he is the executive chef of the twenty-seat Temporis, an intimate spot in the heart of West Town that earned its first Michelin star in 2018. The restaurant prides itself on being “unbound by the conventions of fine dining,” offering a ten-course tasting menu featuring ingredients grown onsite in the restaurant’s hydroponic garden, house-made fermented ingredients and a wide range of flavor inspiration from around the world.
Jorge’s menu is chock full of evidence of his past pursuits, with bold dishes featuring everything from candy-striped Chioggia beet paired with goat cheese and fire-hued persimmon to a deconstructed play on an opera cake scattered with edible fuchsia flowers.
“I’m very color-motivated,” says Jorge, who notes that his aesthetic bent is what drew him to the Michelin-starred world in the first place.
“You can be a little more artsy, plating-wise,” he says. “So it’s more of an experience for the guests as well.”
His philosophy is evident in his Thai-influenced pork belly dish, which he crafted for the restaurant’s winter menu after tasting a braised pork shank cooked by Grace’s chef de cuisine upon his return from Bangkok.
“I really took a liking to this dish when he made it for staff meal,” says Jorge, “and I was like, oh, this would be a cool dish if we could kind of refine it a little bit. Make it tasting menu-friendly.”
To do so, Jorge first brines pork belly in lime and salt before braising it in veal stock seasoned with lemongrass, galangal, ginger, Kaffir lime and spices. A bit of palm sugar for sweetness, coconut for creaminess and Fresno chiles for heat tie the whole dish together. Inspired by the traditional Thai accompaniment of rice, Jorge cooks green bamboo rice risotto style with garlic, ginger and lemongrass, and serves the whole thing with wilted, emerald-toned baby spinach.
“It looks more complicated than what it is, but it’s basically a one-pot wonder,” says Jorge. “You braise the pork belly, throw it in. And then you make your rice while you’re waiting for it, and then you can almost just throw it together.”
Modesty aside, even his finishing touches are relatively simple for even the home cook. Red Fresno chiles are cut into thin slices and chilled in ice water until they curl, while lime zest is spiralized and pickled in lime juice and simple syrup. The red-and-green spirals mimic the shape of a chicharron placed on top. It’s the perfect reflection of Jorge’s ultimate culinary goal.
“When they first have the dish put in front of them, I want guests to think, ‘That’s almost too pretty to eat,’” he says. “But then when they actually eat it, I want them to think, ‘Oh my god, I’m so glad I did eat that.’”
Pork Belly With Lime, Coconut and Lemongrass
- 1⁄2 pound pork belly
- 4800 g water
- 200 g lime juice
- 300 g salt
- 175 g palm sugar
- 25 g Thai long peppercorns
- 25 g star anise
- 25 g allspice
- 200 g lemongrass, chopped
- 200 g galangal, chopped
- 200 g ginger, chopped
- 75 g onions, chopped
- 75 g carrots, chopped
- 50 g garlic, chopped
- 100 g Kaffir lime leaves
- 75 g Fresno chilis
- 3000 g veal stock
- 600 g coconut milk
- 200 g mirin
- 140 g fish sauce
- 200 g rice wine vinegar
Green Bamboo Rice
- 900 g chicken stock
- 50 g cubed butter, divided
- 30 g minced lemongrass
- 30 g minced garlic
- 30 g minced ginger
- 400 g green bamboo rice
- 250 g baby spinach
Two days in advance, dissolve the salt in the water and lime juice. Place the pork belly in a container, and pour the brine over it to cover. Cover with plastic and chill for two days.
When the pork belly has brined for two days, preheat the oven to 300º F and remove the pork belly from the brine. Pat it dry. Sear it in a Dutch oven or large roasting pan over medium-high heat so that it is caramelized on all sides. Set aside.
In the same pan, melt the palm sugar. Once the sugar is bubbly, add the spices and toast until you can smell the aromas, about 2-3 minutes. Add all of the aromatic vegetables and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
Add all of the braising liquids and bring to a boil. Add the pork belly and cover with foil. Braise in the 300º F oven until fork tender, about 3-4 hours.
When the pork belly is nearly cooked, cook the rice risotto style. To do so, heat the chicken stock until warmed, then set aside. Heat about a third of the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot, and sauté the aromatics over medium heat 1-2 minutes. Add the rice and toast 1-2 minutes, or until translucent. Deglaze with a ladleful of chicken stock and cook, stirring frequently, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue cooking the rice in this manner until al dente, then remove from the heat and beat in the remaining cubed butter until melted and glossy.
One the pork belly is cooked, serve with the bamboo rice and wilted spinach.
This article was featured in the InsideHook Chicago newsletter. Sign up now for more from the Windy City.