Every morning for the past few weeks, I’ve had a simple breakfast of poached eggs on top of polenta- not the porridge like polenta, but polenta formed by a loaf pan (or whatever dish/pan available, really) and chilled until set, then sliced into 1/4” slices and fried in olive oil until golden and slightly crispy. I will always love toast with my eggs, or more pillowy tortillas or naan, but the mild, golden corn flavor and the crispy edges of fried polenta go so well with a silky poached egg, I can’t seem to break the habit.
Of course, this breakfast welcomes many additions- sauteed spinach/nettles, avocado, browned butter with red pepper flakes, a swoop of greek yogurt with a little garlic, fresh herbs etc. as pictured below.
Important notes: freshness of eggs matters when poaching. I like to gather a couple eggs in the morning directly from the chicken coop and poach them immediately because I think I’m Martha Stewart, but if chickens don’t grace your backyard, just try to use the freshest eggs you can find. Maybe a friend has hens and extra eggs, or maybe your local farmer’s market or back road produce stand does. It’s also important to take extra care when lowering the eggs from the ramekin into the hot water, try to make the transition as smooth as possible.
For the polenta, I buy a medium/coarse grind, and cook according to package instructions, oftentimes lengthening the cooking time to about 30 minutes over low heat, adding more water as necessary if it becomes too thick. You will need to plan ahead and make the polenta 4+ hours before you plan to fry it, as it takes time to firm up in the fridge. I tend to make a large batch once a week, and take the amount I want every morning from the fridge. Cooked polenta should keep for 5-6 days in the fridge.
If you’re able, I recommend buying certified organic polenta. At the risk of sounding preachy- conventional corn growing methods rely heavily on un-sustainable growing practices (GMO seed, over tillage of soil, pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers etc.), all of which can be avoided with organic polenta.
Ingredients for 1 serving:
Chilled polenta, sliced 1/4” thick or a little thinner
2 fresh eggs
Salt and pepper
Good butter (I like salted kerrygold butter for this)
In a cast iron skillet or non-stick frying pan, drizzle a few tablespoons olive oil into pan and turn onto medium low heat. Immediately place sliced polenta in pan, making sure the bottom of the pan is covered with a thin layer of olive oil.
Fry polenta over medium low heat, with a lid on. The lid is important, as the polenta splatters like mad.
To get a nice golden crust on both sides of the polenta, fry for about 5 minutes on each side, maybe a touch longer. Patience is key here.
Once the exterior is crisp on both sides, place polenta in a shallow bowl for serving and sprinkle with a little salt to taste while the eggs finish cooking.
Meanwhile, in a medium heavy bottomed saucepan, bring about 3 inches of water to a boil. Reduce heat to a low simmer. Crack an egg into a glass ramekin or small shallow bowl and very gently slip into the water. No need to swirl the water, just be verrrry gentle about transferring the eggs to the water.
Repeat with the second egg.
Leave the eggs undisturbed for about 1 minute over a low simmer (you don’t want any agitation in the water that a higher temperature would create). After about a minute, gentle run a slotted spoon or thin spatula under the eggs to ensure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Continue cooking for a couple minutes, then gently pull one egg out of the water with a slotted spoon and poke the yolk gentle with your finger to determine doneness. I like my poached eggs jammy, so I poach mine a bit longer than normal.
Once the eggs are poached to your liking, pull them out with a slotted spoon, blot with a paper towel to remove any water, and place on top of your crispy polenta. Push a little pat of butter into the egg yolk and watch it melt, it’s truly beautiful. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.