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Restaurateur François Latapie, who opened La Goulue, Orsay, and Lyon in NYC, has a great track record with French bistros. Now Latapie is bringing the same passion for French dining farther uptown to 86th Street with the 75-seat Little Frog bistro and wine bar. Following stints at Payard Bistro and Minetta Tavern, the proprietor tapped Xavier Monge as his executive chef. Monge whips up hearty French classics like steak frites, onion soup gratinée, coq au vin and croque-monsieurs out of the cheery boite which features tufted “French green” leather banquettes, a bright-blue wooden bar and Moroccan tiled floors.

We chatted with Little Frog’s chef Xavier Monge to learn more about the project, his daily routine and get his favorite brunch recipes from his menu.

My lunch routine consists of:

One Honeycrisp apple and a cup of coffee.

The best part of what I do is:

Being able to make people smile with a good meal and hear them say, ‘We can’t wait to come back.’

The best thing I’ve ever eaten:  

When I was a kid my father used to take me rabbit hunting in the mountains. After catching one, my father skewered it across and roasted it on top of an open fire, and until this day I swear that is the best thing I have ever eaten.

Where do you seek inspiration for the restaurant?

I try to read as many cookbooks as I can get my hands on, a lot of research on the internet and I like to visit as many markets, restaurants and kitchens as my schedule allows. Also, social media is something I always stay on top of to see new food trends and to draw inspiration. I always try to be a little different—I like adding twists to classic dishes.

Favorite dish:

My favorite dish is hands down cassoulet. I like how all the flavors come together, you can add anything into a cassoulet. I also like game meat, nothing compares to the taste of a game animal’s meat.

Asparagus Vol Au Vent

Serves 4

Ingredients – 1 puff pastry sheet 18”x24” (available frozen at local grocery store) – 2 egg yolks (“egg wash”) – 1 sheet parchment paper and baking tray – 1 pastry brush – Hollandaise sauce, to taste

Vol Au Vent Directions

Cut eight rectangles of 2.5”x4.” Keep four whole. Carve four; carve out the center, this will be the top layer of your vol au vent when ready to assembly. Line baking paper on baking tray. Set four “whole” rectangles, leave some space between each. Brush egg wash on top of the puff pastry, then set the carved rectangle on top, let the egg dry. Brush the top of your raw pastry with the remaining egg wash. Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes until golden, pastry should be at this point about two inches in height.

Poached Egg Ingredients

– 1 quart sauce pot filled three quarters with water – 2 tablespoons white vinegar – 4 whole eggs

Poached Eggs Directions

Add vinegar to water, boil the water, stir with spoon. One by one, break the whole eggs into small ramekins, then pour each egg directly above the water, for a runny egg cook for about three minutes.

Asparagus Ingredients

– 2 bunches jumbo asparagus, peeled and cut in half – 2 tablespoons olive oil – Salt and pepper to taste

Asparagus Directions

Season asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper. In the same tray used for the puff pastry, roast the asparagus in the oven at 350 degrees for eight to 10 minutes.

Hollandaise Ingredients

– 4 egg yolks – 3 tablespoons lemon juice – 1 ½ cups clarified butter – 8” metal bowl – Salt and pepper, to taste

Hollandaise Directions

In the bowl add eggs and lemon, set stove flame at low and place bowl on top of the burner. Start to whisk until egg is fluffy. Start adding clarified butter in a steady stream while continuously whisking. Once butter is fully added, season with salt and pepper.

To Plate

Fill the vol au vent with the roasted asparagus, leaving a small nest in the middle to set the  poached egg. Place the poached egg on top of the asparagus and freely coat the top with hollandaise. Garnish with chopped chives and espelette pepper.

Croque Madame

Serves 4

Bechamel Ingredients

– 7 ounces all-purpose flour – 1 liter milk – 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg – 1 small shallot, diced – ¼ lb. whole butter, diced – Salt and pepper, to taste

Bechamel Directions

In a sauce pot, add butter over a low flame to lightly melt. Add chopped shallots and sweat for two minutes. Add the flour and stir constantly to prevent the flour from burning, keep stirring until paste is formed, approximately five minutes. Slowly add milk, be careful not to add all at once as it will form lumps. Cook until milk thickens, add salt and pepper to taste.

Croque Ingredients

– ½ lb. sliced Ham – 1lb. gruyere cheese, grated – 8 tablespoons of Dijon mustard – 4 whole eggs – 8 slices toasted square white bread, or bread of your liking – Olive oil

Croque Directions

Line baking tray with olive oil and place in four slices of bread. Spread some Dijon mustard (to your liking) on top of the bread. Fold 2 sheets of the ham, layer on top then spread a good amount of béchamel on top of the ham. Sprinkle some cheese on top, cover with another bread slice to form a sandwich. Once all 4 sandwiches are complete, spread the remaining ingredients on top in the following order: Béchamel then Cheese. Be generous with the cheese on top as it will melt and give a beautiful presentation to your dish. Set your oven at 400 degrees and bake for 20 minutes on the top rack to get a nice gratinée on top of the cheese.

Sunny Side Up Eggs Directions

In a Teflon-lined pan, sprinkle a bit or olive oil and cook eggs on a low flame for about five minutes.

To Plate

Set the Croque Monsieur, as it does not become a Croque Madam until it sets. Add your sunny side up eggs on top of sandwiches. Garnish with some mixed greens.