This evolved as sort of a hybrid. When I was a child, our favorite holiday breakfast was one my mother made of eggs poached in tomato juice served on toasted English Muffins. Fast-forward several years to when I was thinking about how to incorporate goat cheese and polenta into a celebratory breakfast because my daughter, especially, loves both. And so the hybrid was born, though I will always think of it as a tribute to my mother.
I season up the tomato juice with a healthy dose of red pepper flakes and some lemon juice, and to the polenta I add chopped fresh rosemary and crisp pancetta. It's important to make the polenta a day ahead so it has time to set up firmly. Besides, who has time to stir polenta on a holiday morning!
It's also a good idea to have all your mise en place done on the morning you want to serve these because it all comes together quickly. So have plates ready, the goat cheese sliced (or crumbled - you know how the first couple of slices are perfect, and it's all downhill from there, so don't be attached to perfection here), and the parsley chopped. Oh, and the table set, but you can delegate that. Right?
Since this has definite Italian tones, Prosecco is an obvious companion. Alternatively, I've always got a case of Pelegrino in the basement.
This is wonderful on Christmas Day, as a multi-layered red and green breakfast/brunch. But don't underestimate its qualities as great hangover food on New Year's Day! —boulangere
For the Polenta
6 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups medium or coarse polenta
6 ounces pancetta
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Sea or kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 ounces butter
2 tablespoons melted butter
For the Poached Eggs
The chilled, firm polenta, cut into squares
32 ounces tomato juice
Healthy dose of red pepper flakes
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Sea or kosher salt and pepper
8 ounces goat cheese, sliced or crumbled
A good handful of Italian parsley, chopped, for garnish
In This Recipe
Make your polenta the day before you plan to serve this. First preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Chop the pancetta into 1/4" cubes. Scatter on the baking sheet. Bake in oven until nicely crisp, 10-15 minutes.
While the pancetta is cooking, bring water to a boil. Add the polenta in a steady stream while whisking. Reduce heat to medium and continue whisking until the polenta thickens and forms a boil that you can't stir down, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and rosemary. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta into the polenta. Stir in, then taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Brush the inside of a square casserole (8"x8" or 9"x9") with the melted butter. Pour in the polenta and smooth it out to all the corners. Let cool at room temperature with a piece of plastic in contact with the surface so that a skin doesn't form. Refrigerate overnight.
The next morning, remove the polenta from the fridge and cut it into squares of equal size. Begin warming a griddle or a skillet over medium heat. Film the bottom with olive oil. When it is hot, carefully lift out squares of polenta and place them on the griddle. Let the down side cook until nicely browned, then gently turn over and repeat until that side is browned.
While the polenta is browning, heat the tomato juice with the red pepper flakes, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper until it reaches a good simmer. It should not be boiling rapidly. When the polenta is almost done, begin poaching the eggs by cracking each into a half-cup dry measuring cup, then easing it into the simmering tomato juice. You may need to raise the heat a bit to maintain the simmer.
As the squares of polenta come off the griddle and onto plates, top each with some of the goat cheese, then use a large spoon to lift an egg onto the top of the polenta and goat cheese. Be sure to ladle over some of the wonderful poaching liquid. If you have some goat cheese left over, top the eggs with some crumbles. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately. Happy holidays!