The fare and flair of Oak make it an unlikely candidate for a ham and cheese sandwich. Coffee-colored couches as smooth as chocolate mousse add a touch of homeliness to a dining space so dominated by impeccable design that it was intimidating to someone who spends most of his time in suburban strip mall circuit, but the food and service can appeal to uninitiated as well as regular diners. Servers exude class and consideration as they attend to the needs of their patrons, explaining the contents of every course. The combination of Oak’s décor, service that puts you at ease, and exquisite food made for a relaxing repast. The Ham and Cheese Croissant Sandwich is no exception.
Executive chef Jason Maddy’s ham and cheese croissant sandwich is prepared with French-style ham, emmental cheese, Dijon mustard, heirloom tomatoes and Bibb lettuce. The chefs don’t forget to brush a bit more butter onto the croissant, making the golden-brown crust radiant.
“I like the French style [ham] because here in America it’ll be canned ham. What they do—it’s a very similar style, but [the difference is] where it’s been processed and boiled. And then we just slice it super thin, and then sticking with that French style was to add the Dijon. And then I really like the emmental cheese, which is not so much French … it’s a style of Swiss, and it’s pretty pungent for a Swiss. So just putting all of those [ingredients] together and then the heirloom tomatoes and then the Bibb lettuce kind of finishes it.”
Croissants are works of art in their own right. Just looking at the bread yields some clues to its taste on the tongue. Cutting into it, the thin flakiness of the crust abruptly yields to the porous body of the bread. Each crescent is a vortex of dough that has undergone a lengthy process called lamination, which is the repeated folding and rolling of chilled butter into the dough. When the dough starts out as a flat sheet, a sheet of butter is placed on top and folded into it. The dough cools in the fridge for an hour before being folded and rolled again, this time perpendicular to the original fold. The process is repeated and then the dough is cut into triangle which bakers stretch and roll into crescents. After allowing the dough to rise, the inflated crescents are doused with egg wash and placed in the oven. Empire Baking Company in Uptown does the job for Oak, leaving the assembly to Chef Maddy.
Ken Pirkle’s Raindrop Farms supplies hundreds of pounds of heirloom tomatoes to Oak. However, the hot Texas summer has taken its toll on the tomato season, affecting the varieties that may be found on the ham and cheese. My luck of the draw was a tomato with vibrant green streaks through it.
The sandwich was prefaced by a house potato soup—made with corn, Tasso ham, black-eyed peas and garnished with fried scallions—and followed by pastry chef Sarah Green’s peach galette served with smoked pecan praline ice cream and drizzled with raspberry puree. The Louisiana-style ham and the smoked pecan praline ice cream were Southern comfort disguised as food. Through its cuisine and style, Oak has gotten the heart of the Design District as well as the heart of comfort food.