Each week on the Food Chain, we ask a chef to describe a dish he or she recently enjoyed. The chef who prepared the dish responds and then picks his or her own memorable meal. On and on it goes. Last week, Alfred Portale, chef-owner of Gotham Bar and Grill, discussed Bouchon’s Rilletes aux Deux Salmons with Jeff Cerciello, casual dining director of Thomas Keller’s Restaurant Group. Now what will you be having, Mr. Cerciello?
Who: Jeff Cerciello, casual dining director, Thomas Keller Restaurant Group
What: Roasted asparagus with polenta and a breadcrumb-crusted fried egg
Where: Tavern, Brentwood, Los Angeles, CA
When: A few weeks ago (The dish is seasonal, and not currently on the menu, though a breakfast version is available.)
“I had a great meal at Tavern a couple weeks back [where] there was an asparagus dish with egg that really impressed our group. I believe they start by poaching [the egg], just to set the protein, then it’s put in bread crumbs and fried. There was some polenta, then lightly roasted asparagus with the fried egg on top, and pieces of pecorino kind of thinly sliced. I believe there was a little bit of brown butter if I remember correctly. What was so compelling about this dish is that once you broke into that egg that sat atop the asparagus and polenta, that richness just brought everything together. And the texture of the egg itself was really nice. It’s kind of a crunchy fork texture on the outside. It almost looked like a beignet of some sort. Then when you crack through that crunchiness you got this rich, warm, runny yolk. The egg was cooked perfectly. And egg and asparagus is really classic, and with the richness with the polenta, it just brought all those things together really nicely. I think I was drinking a beer with it. A nice, hoppy beer but I can’t remember what kind.”
Julie Robles, Executive Chef at Tavern (and dish co-creator) responds:
“Suzanne [Goin] has always been a fan of Marion Cunningham who did this great dish of butter-crumbed eggs. But this was done in the traditional Marion Cunningham way, with the egg sautéed, and we knew that wouldn’t work at a busy restaurant. So we first attempted the dish for Sunday supper at Lucques, and tried sauteéing the egg, but it kept breaking and was just problematic. So someone suggested we put the egg in the deep fryer to see if it works, and it was absolutely wonderful. I also remember a carbonara in New Orleans topped with fried egg that was just genius. So we went for it that night and everyone loved it, and we thought ‘this is it.’ We do use a brown butter sauce, as well as sharp pecorino cheese that just works so well with the soft yolk, then we put that on a homemade polenta. One of the keys was buying asparagus at the farmer’s market where they are really fat and delicious. We can’t buy those right now, so the item is off the menu for a little bit, but it will come back.”
Check in next Wednesday to see which dish Chef Julie Robles is raving about.