Chef Rene De Leon shares a recipe from Le Sel, his new French restaurant in Nashville.
My recipe was inspired by a picture in Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home cookbook. It was of a simple salad of asparagus, ham, and a poached egg. It's the type of dish that I think cooks really enjoy — very simple yet extremely satisfying. Le Sel's version has a roasted leek in place of the asparagus and Benton's ham, a beloved local product.
LEEKS WITH POACHED EGG, HAM, SOURDOUGH, AND WHOLE GRAIN MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE
1 Tbsp. clarified butter (or regular butter, melted)
2 oz. Benton's ham, sliced (or favorite cured ham, thinly sliced)
The fronds from 3 sprigs of fennel
6 fennel blossoms
For the Sourdough
1 loaf, sliced 3/4 inch thick
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large sprig thyme
6 Tbsp. butter
Kosher salt to taste
For the Mustard Vinaigrette
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
4 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
The components are listed in order of preparation, so everything is done when the poached egg comes out of the water.
Make the Mustard
Mix all ingredients together.
Roast the Leek
Trim leek to five inches, discarding root and dark-green parts. Rinse under cold water to ensure all dirt is gone. Home cooks: Brush leek with melted butter and roast on parchment paper at 325ºF for 20-30 minutes or until leek is tender.
Experienced chefs: Cook leek in a bag with butter at 85ºC for 25 minutes. Drain and place in an oven on parchment paper at 400ºF for 10 minutes until browned.
Make the Sourdough Croutons
Place butter, garlic, and thyme in a sauté pan large enough to fit the slice of bread over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam and then stops (it will only foam for a few seconds), place the bread in the pan and then press down gently so it touches the pan completely. This will ensure an even browning. Flip the bread when golden brown and repeat the process.
When both sides are colored, drain on paper towels and season with kosher salt. Break the bread into bite-sized pieces. The middle should be tender and the top and bottom should be crispy.
Poach the Egg
Home cooks: Bring 3-4 inches of water to just under a simmer, around 185ºF. Using a slotted spoon, stir to create a vortex in the center, then drop the egg in the middle. This will help the loose whites stay compact and stick to the egg. Poach for 3-4 minutes or until the whites are set and the center is soft when gently poked with a finger.
Experienced chefs: Sous vide at 75ºC for 13 minutes.
Place the leek on the plate and lean the poached egg against it. Place a spoonful of mustard vinaigrette next to the egg. Drizzle another spoonful around the plate to make sure there is some for every bite. Decorate with 2 or 3 sourdough croutons. Lay the ham over everything, but don't completely cover the ingredients. Add the remaining croutons and finish with fennel franz and blossoms.