Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Baked Eggs with Creamy Polenta, Spinach & Garlic

I saw this yesterday on theKitchn and knew I had to try it ASAP, I'm glad I did! Creamy, cheesy polenta covered with garlicky spinach and topped with what is essentially a poached egg. YUM! To be honest, I was a little daunted by the polenta as I've never made it before. As it turns out, it's a cinch to make! And, either I had an incredible amount of good fortune, or the rumors online that it's notoriously difficult are overblown.

Ingredients to Serve 4:
) 1/2 cup of uncooked polenta
) 1/2 teaspoon salt
) 1/2 cup grated/shredded parmesan cheese
) 1/4 cup milk
) 1 teaspoon olive oil (frankly, this is to brown the garlic and eventually toss the spinach with, I just kinda eyeballed it)
) 6 cloves minced garlic
) pinch or two red pepper flakes
) colander full of stemmed spinach (I realize this is vague, but the original recipe calls for 10 ounces which is too much math for this chef, so I rinsed enough in my colander until it looked like enough, I'd estimate 1/2 lb?
) 4 eggs
) 4 oven safe ramekins (or mugs, small bowls, crocks, etc)
) 1 roasting pan that will fit your ramekins inside it

2 cups water, 1/2 cup polenta,  1/2 tsp salt

First we make the polenta.  Bring 2 cups of water (double check the amount of water on your specific polenta brand) to boil in a small pot, once it's rolling, pour in your polenta and salt.  Stir this fairly constantly, it was quick to enter into a lava-like state with small burbles of REALLY hot polenta flying into the air.  Just stir.  Depending on your brand and whether you've used instant or traditional polenta, this will take between 5 to 45 minutes. 

Once the polenta is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan and milk.  Keep stirring until the parmesan dissolves entirely and the milk is absorbed.  Now you can put it to the side.

stir, stir, stir your polenta!

Put a teakettle on to boil (or however you usually acquire boiling water) and preheat the oven to 375 F.  In a skillet, brown your garlic and red pepper flakes.  Once they are fragrant, dump your rinsed and stemmed spinach right on top:

browning garlic and pepper flakes

polenta all done on the back left, water heating up on the front left and spinach, garlic and pepper flakes on the front right

Now it's time to get artsy!  While everything is doing its stuff, put 1/4 cup of your delicious cooked polenta into each ramekin.  Once the spinach is done (all wilty and mixed well with the garlic) divide it evenly on top of the polenta and crack an egg on top of each.  Put you ramekins in a roasting pan (heeding directions below) and pour your boiling (teakettle, big pot, microwave, etc) water in to the roasting pan until the water comes halfway up each ramekin.

4 ramekins squeezed into one roasting pan

Now- if all 4 of your ramekins fit perfectly with no wiggle room into a roasting pan (like mine did) you are good to go!  Otherwise, theKitchn suggests you put a dish towel on the bottom of the roasting pan with the ramekins atop it.  This will keep the ramekins from sliding all over when you add the boiling water.  And now look, we are all learning new techniques.

Pop the roasting pan into your preheated oven and set your timer for 15 minutes, after which you will remove the pan and cover it with tin foil.  Before you cover it, the ramekins should look something like this:

Cover with tinfoil and pop it back in the oven for 2 minutes for a nice runny egg (as we prefer) or about 6 minutes to be thoroughly cooked through.  Carefully remove the ramekins from the hot water and give a good crack of black pepper to each.  We had a green salad on the side:

The polenta was unreal, so cheesy and luscious and somehow it had a smoky flavor.  The spinach cut through the rich flavor and the egg yolk worked its way through everything.  I would make this again soon.  I think the polenta would really yield to a lot of flavor choices, so any herbs or flavored liquid other than water would really come through.

Let me know if you try this or have any suggestions, and I know, I'll get better quality picture next time!

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