As a home cook in training, I like to pose myself with the question before crafting a new recipe: how can I make an elegant, new dish while making me feel as though I’m eating my favorite childhood meal at Grandma’s house? The way we do foods like vegetables can often seem repetitive, yet it’s the repetition of specific dishes and flavors that bring out the comfort in “comfort food.” So if we don’t want to do treacle tart or mashed potatoes again, then how can we make something different but equally as comforting?
I think this recipe is an accurate example of a dish that succeeds in offering new ways to serve vegetables, while still holding onto the warming, comfortable flavors we already know and love. The ingredients here are nothing out of the ordinary; leek, fennel, tomato, potato and artichoke are all lovely and loving when served warm. What makes this dish exciting is that it’s made a little different by the runny poached egg on top, the pureed artichoke in the cream sauce, and the meticulous placement of fennel leaves and roasted vegetables to make comfort food fit in a fine-dining scene. One thing I’ve come to realize is that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel in terms of taste–classic flavor combinations are classics for a reason. The only thing that needs reinvention is the way in which we prepare, connect, and present those flavor combinations.
I made this recipe after returning home from the La Belle Assiette office, following a long day of helping to bring people together at tables around the Europe. Creating this recipe was a lot of fun, but make note that it does take a little more work and time than my last two recipes on the La Belle Assiette blog. I highly suggest this recipe to any home cooks looking to add flair and elegance to their comfort food, or chefs looking for culinary inspiration.
Ben Gaiarin is the author of the food blog BenGusto.com, and the new Assistant in Marketing and PR at La Belle Assiette.
Poached Egg in Cream of Artichoke and Leek, Roasted Fennel and Tomato
Cooking Time: 1 Hour
For the Artichoke and Leek Cream:
- 1 large Artichoke
- 3 tbsp. Olive Oil
- 1/3 cup Heavy Cream
- 5 large Basil Leaves
- Salt and Pepper (to taste)
- 2 medium Leeks
For the Vegetables and Egg:
- 2 large Eggs
- 5 small Red potatoes
- 2 large Tomatoes (of an intriguing variety)
- 1 large Fennel Bulb (with leaves attached)
- 1 cup of diced Feta Cheese
- Olive Oil
- Thyme (dry or fresh)
Preheat the oven to 180 ºC (350 ºF).
Place the feta cheese in a small bowl. Dress the cheese with olive oil, thyme, and black pepper. Let marinate.
For the cream:
Prepare the leeks. Cut off the dark-green stalks where the leek begins to split and discard them. Thinly slice the whiter part of the leek into rings. Place in a colander and wash them under water, popping the rings with your fingers. Set aside.
Prepare the artichoke. Cut the stem off, and trim the pointy tips of the leaves. Rinse the artichoke, scrubbing under the leaves a little. Steam the artichoke in a covered pot filled 2 inches (5 centimeters) with water for 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of your artichoke. Once cooked, the leaves should be easy to pry off.
Pry each artichoke leaf off the bulb and scrape off all the meat you can using a pairing knife. Place the artichoke meat into a medium-sized pot. Once you reach that fuzzy center, discard the fuzz and thinly dice the artichoke heart. Place in the pot as well.
Add 1 tbsp. of olive oil, salt, pepper and basil leaves to the pot. Simmer over low heat for two minutes, and then add the cream and ¼ cup of water (you may find that you’d like to add more water later on to thin the cream). Take off the stove and blend using a hand blender or a blender fitted with a steel blade.
In a small pot over medium heat, sauté the sliced leeks in 2 tbsp. of olive oil with salt until the leeks soften. Add the artichoke cream, and let simmer covered over low heat for four minutes to allow the flavors to infuse together. Set aside.
For the poached eggs:
There are different ways to poach eggs. It’s never easy, so use whichever method works best for you. I start by piercing the egg with a corkscrew to make a small hole in the shell. Fill a small saucepan with 2 inches (5 centimeters) of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and then place the egg in the center. Count to 15, and then take the egg out. Gently swirl the water with a spoon, and then crack the egg as close to the water as possible. Gently pat the egg from staying on the bottom with the spoon, and make sure that the whites remain contained. Cook for 2-3 minutes, right before the yolk starts to turn a harder yellow, and let the egg cool in an ice bath. If you’re not confident with poaching eggs, then try one at a time. When it’s time to plate, you can reheat the egg for five seconds in simmering water again.
For the roasted vegetables:
Brush olive oil generously over a baking sheet. Cut the tomatoes into quarter slices and place on the sheet. To prepare the fennel, cut off the bulb’s tall stalks and place them aside. Slice the fennel into moderately thin slices and place on the sheet. Dice the potatoes and place on the sheet. Dress the vegetables in olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are slightly browned and softened.
Spoon a base of cream on your plate with a bed of leeks in the center. Place the poached egg on top of the leeks and surround with roasted vegetables. Decorate with the fennel leaves (from the leftover stalks). Bon appétit!