Amanda & Merrill

Polenta (Again!) with Wilted Escarole and Olive Oil Fried Eggs

December 15, 2009

- Merrill

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
Serves 2
  • 1/2 cup polenta (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • salt
  • 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.


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Oui, C. December 21, 2009
Mmmmm... this could easily become a favorite dish of mine. I can see making it with all sorts of bitter greens, and with some mushrooms thrown in for good measure. Do you ever make it with poached eggs? Thanks for the inspiration.
SarahKlein December 21, 2009
Yum! yum! yum! Looks divine
GoodFoodie December 20, 2009
Funny, your train of thought sounds just like Melissa Clark's too. Maybe you were channeling her? :)
Merrill S. December 20, 2009
You know, I never realized she included greens in her recipe until I looked at it again just now -- so funny! And red pepper flakes too. More credit to Melissa!
Jenny N. December 20, 2009
This sounds great, but let's call it grits, because that is what this is!
Merrill S. December 20, 2009
Tomayto, tomahto!
Lucia F. December 20, 2009
3 of my favorite foods in one dish. : )
ETinDC December 16, 2009
I would love this. I also love a fried egg on top of rice and steamed spinach with a little sesame oil and Korean kochujang (sp?). It's a simplified bibimbap and very good.
Merrill S. December 16, 2009
Thanks, everyone, for your lovely comments. And it's true that this dish could easily serve as breakfast, lunch or dinner. I think one of the things I love most about both eggs and polenta is their versatility!
Kelsey B. December 15, 2009
I agree with everyone here- I LOVE frying eggs in olive oil. Best of all, this seems like it would be perfect for my "breakfast for dinner" nights which happen once in a while around here. Interesting about people developing a taste for eggs, I've always loved them but my young daughter won't touch them. I guess I'll wait until she is older and try again!
lastnightsdinner December 15, 2009
You ladies are killing me with the polenta and eggs! I need to re-stock my grits and polenta, pronto.
TheWimpyVegetarian December 15, 2009
This looks like such a perfect winter breakfast. Or dinner. Or lunch. Or anytime of year or day :-). Love the recipe and the photo. Also glad to hear it only take 20 minutes or so to make - I'm so pushed for time like everyone else this time of year but I still like to have a nice meal. Thanks for posting!
theicp December 15, 2009
This is perfect since I've been on a fried egg kick. (It's hard to find enough time to cook dinner this time of year with holiday parties and whatnot.) Not to mention I never would have thought of using escarole - will definitely try this!
Merrill S. December 15, 2009
So glad you ladies like this! The best part is that the whole thing takes about 20 minutes, start to finish, if you multi-task. So even if you're starving, you can have semi-instant gratification. And dymnyno, I didn't touch eggs until I was a teenager!
dymnyno December 15, 2009
I want one now! It's hard for me to believe that I never ate an egg until I was in college (and I am from Petaluma, the Egg Basket of the World). Now I love them, especially cooked in my own olive oil, any way, fried or scrambled.
AntoniaJames December 15, 2009
"My own olive oil" . . . . has a nice ring into it (you lucky girl)!
AntoniaJames December 15, 2009
To die for, Merrill, simply to die for. I am totally a fried-egg-in-good-olive-oil person. It was a key lesson I've carried through my life since living in Italy. Note to self: Start using that mini-slowcooker for overnight polenta when not using it for overnight steel cut oats, nine-grain cereal with raisins, etc. I can see putting a bit of fresh jack on this, or a sliver of Manchego, and maybe a few leaves of fresh basil, or some chopped thyme, when there's no escarole on hand, or when I must get into the office early . . . Mmmmmmmmmm ;o)