Story of a Dish: Egg in a Nest
CHEF: Greg Vassos
RESTAURANT: Brick Farm Tavern
When presented with a chicken and an egg, Greg Vassos has a far greater challenge than weighing in on the ageold conundrum. As executive chef and partner at Brick Farm Tavern in Hopewell, Vassos must prepare and serve 45 dozen eggs and 30 chickens a week in a way that honors the care they’ve received at Double Brook Farm—the adjacent pasture-based farm that supplies the Tavern’s kitchen with all of its meat and poultry. Egg in a Nest exemplifies the creative approach Vassos and his team take to this whole-animal challenge.
“It goes with the philosophy of the restaurant,” Vassos says. “Every week we’re getting whole animals through the door. How do we use everything, from nose to tail, with no waste? It’s all about utilizing as much product as we can.”
Egg in a Nest is built on a foundation of rich, creamy potato risotto, made by dicing potato to the size of grains of Arborio rice and cooking it in the same manner as risotto. Topping that is an egg that has been poached in the shell at 147°F for one hour. “It cooks the egg white and the egg yolk to the same consistency, so it is very pudding-like,” Vassos says.
The poached egg is surrounded by a crescent of glazed squash and by mushrooms cooked in fat rendered from “chicken bacon”—cured chicken thighs smoked with hay gathered from the farm. These larded mushrooms add umami and richness to the dish while also bringing in a salty, smoky element. Along with a sprinkling of microgreens, the dish is finished with tarragon foam, which adds brightness and balance. To serve, the dish is placed in an aromatic nest made from hay that has been washed, dried and baked.
The thighs Vassos uses to make this dish are from Freedom Ranger chickens, which are bred to do well while foraging on pastures. The eggs are from Red Star chickens—prolific layers that produce eggs Vassos describes as rich and “unlike any supermarket egg you’ve ever had.” While the choice of breeds matters to the flavor of the meat and eggs, Vassos also credits the chickens’ free-roaming diet, noting that “everything that’s out on the farm that they’re foraging on—bugs, grass—adds to the end product.”
Double Brook Farm, which is owned by Jon McConaughy, Vassos’s business partner, has one of the only on-farm USDA-certified abattoirs in the United States. This intimate farm-to-table relationship gives Vassos total confidence in the quality of his ingredients. “The animals are raised on the farm, they’re slaughtered on the farm. Nothing leaves our property,” Vassos says. “We can really stand behind what we’re serving and know exactly how are animals were treated, what they’re fed—all the way through the cooking process.”
Brick Farm Tavern
130 Hopewell Rocky Hill Rd.