This past Saturday as I was walking home from Pilates class, I brainstormed about what to bring to a Hanukkah potluck the next day. Foods cooked in oil are traditional at Hanukkah, so at first I contemplated doughnuts, fritters and some other fried goodies. But I quickly got sidetracked. I was ravenous because I'd skipped breakfast, and I was really in the mood for eggs. Without warning, my foods-cooked-in-oil musings began to blend with my what-to-have-for-lunch ruminations, and I suddenly found myself craving two of my favorite dishes from the New York Times: Melissa Clark's olive oil fried eggs with polenta (I'm temporarily obsessed with polenta after last week's contest theme), and Denise Landis' escarole with pan-roasted garlic and lemon. What if I were to combine the two? Pondering this, I hurried home to make lunch, all thoughts of the potluck swept from my hungry brain.
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The resulting dish was pretty darn tasty. I left out the parmesan and butter in Melissa Clark's polenta, cooking it with a little milk to make it creamier, and kept my eggs sunny side up, spooning the hot oil over the tops to finish cooking the whites. I cut way back on the lemon in Denise Landis' escarole, adding a pinch of red pepper flakes, and then I layered everything together on one plate, serving it with some hot sauce on the side. The garlic in this dish definitely makes its presence known, but it's mellow enough not to overpower. The textures of the smooth polenta, the still vaguely crunchy escarole and the crispy egg work well together, and you get variety up until the last bite.
Polenta with Wilted Escarole and Olive Oil Poached Eggs
1/2 cup polenta (not instant)
1/2 cup milk
freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 fat cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 small head of escarole, cleaned and roughly chopped
pinch red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs
Hot sauce (optional)
1. Combine the polenta, milk, 1 1/2 cups cold water and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Let the polenta simmer, whisking every few minutes to make sure it doesn't clump, for 10 to 15 minutes, until it's thick and creamy and tender to the bite. Once the polenta is cooked, taste for seasoning and add salt and black pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and keep covered in a warm place.
2. While the polenta is cooking, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic, and when it begins to sizzle, turn the heat down as low as it will go. Cook the garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden and soft, 5-7 minutes (be careful not to let it burn). Add the escarole and a couple pinches of salt and stir to combine. Raise the heat back up to medium. Cook the escarole, stirring occasionally, until it is wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the red pepper flakes and lemon juice, add more salt if necessary and cook for a minute or so longer. Transfer the escarole to a bowl, cover and keep warm.
3. Wipe out the skillet, return it to medium heat and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot, carefully crack 2 eggs into the pan. Fry for a minute or two, until the whites are opaque and the edges start to turn golden. Carefully tip the pan so that the oil pools and spoon some of the hot oil over the tops of the eggs to finish cooking the whites. Remove to a warm plate lined with paper towels and repeat with the remaining 2 eggs.
4. To assemble, divide the polenta evenly between two shallow warmed bowls and top each serving with half of the escarole (use a slotted spoon so you don't get all of the juices) and two fried eggs. Grind some black pepper over the top and serve immediately with hot sauce on the side.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).