Bacon -Wrapped Eggs with Polenta!
I love polenta, but my family pretty much despises it. So this morning when I was trying to think of something to fix myself for breakfast (everyone else had already eaten) I ran on to this recipe on Epicurious (from the April 2005 Bon Appetite Magazine). This was my chance to have some polenta and not have to worry about anyone complaining about me serving it, because it was all for me and only me. YUM!
I changed the recipe to suit me, what I had in the fridge, and garden. I think this would be a great recipe for a brunch because you can do a lot of it ahead of time, then just pop it in the oven as guests arrive. That is if you are lucky enough to have people in your life who like polenta. If you want the original recipe you can find it here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/BACON-WRAPPED-EGGS-WITH-POLENTA-231872
Here's my version:
Polenta (this can be made up to 2 days ahead and you can assemble the final dish an hour before guests arrive):
This is for eight people, I modified it for one.
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter (for one - 1/2 tablespoon)
1/4 cup minced garlic chives (for one - a couple of tablespoons)
4 cups water (for one - 1 cup)
1 teaspoon salt (for one - a pinch)
1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal) (for one - 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup (packed) grated Parmesan cheese (for one - 1/8 cup)
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme - from my garden (for one - 1/2 tsp)
Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic chives and stir until wilted, about 1 minute. Add 4 cups water and salt; bring to boil. Gradually whisk in polenta. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thick and creamy, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in cheese and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cool to lukewarm. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate; polenta will become firm.)
20 thick slices bacon (for one - I used 2 slices of our bacon from the pig we butchered a few months ago.)
6 ounces medium cheddar cheese, grated (for one person I eyeballed it. I would have preferred extra sharp cheddar, but didn't have any)
6 ounces Winey Goat cheese, grated (again, I eyeballed it for one) (*refer to notes at the end of this post)
8 large eggs (obviously 1 egg for one person - fresh from our chickens)
1/4 cup thinly sliced garlic chives (a tablespoon - straight from my herb garden - yes I'm gloating.)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (a pinch, again, straight from my garden)
Fry the bacon until beginning to brown but still pliable, about 4 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Cool slightly.
Line sides of eight 1 1/4-cup custard cups with 2 slices bacon each, forming collar. Place 1/2 slice bacon on bottom of each cup (I just used one slice to line mine, but 2 would probably have been better). Divide polenta among cups, a generous 1/3 cup each. Press polenta over bottom and up sides of bacon. Mix cheeses in bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheese mixture over polenta in each cup. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Crack 1 egg into center of each cup. Sprinkle eggs with remaining cheese, garlic chives, thyme, and black pepper and a scant amount of kosher salt. Transfer cups to rimmed baking sheet. Bake until egg whites are set, about 20 minutes. Depending on your oven, this is if you like your eggs cooked hard. They were too hard for me, I like a little runny yolk and would cut the time down to 10 to 15 minutes, keep in mind all of the egg warnings, they can carry salmonella and other bacteria, so make sure your eggs are fresh and clean if you aren't going to cook them thoroughly. Let eggs stand at room temperature 5 minutes (eggs will continue to cook).
Run small sharp knife around edge of cups; tilt cups and slide bacon, polenta, and egg onto plates and serve.
This was so good! The polenta was warm, buttery and the parmesan added a wonderful pungency and saltiness to it.. The garlic chives and thyme added a mild garlicky taste and perfuminess. The bacon brought in a smoky element (everything is good with bacon!) and the egg, even though it was over cooked for me, was velvety and smooth in contrast to the grainy texture of the polenta (oh how yummy it would have been with some egg yolk to moisten the polenta a bit more!). The goat cheese gave it a slight earthy flavor and the cheddar gave it that creamy cheesiness that the child in us loves. I can only imagine how much better this would have been with a good sharp cheddar.
I think I may use this the next time I have a brunch, served with a sparkling wine and a salad of spring greens and a vinaigrette. Anyone out there who thinks this sounds good is free to steel it and modify as they please. Please share your modifications and let me know how they turned out so I can steel back. Hmmmmm the thought of blue cheese worked into this somehow seems like a potential....
*For those of you who may not be familiar with Winey Goat Cheese. I just want to let you know, it's not like the chevre you are mostly likely familiar with when it comes to goat cheese. If you want to use chevre, go for it, but it won't have the same affect at Winey Goat, which is a semi soft goat cheese that has it's rind washed and rubbed in wine during its curing. It's delicious!