This is my entry for the January 2008 Monthly Mingle, where the theme this month is comfort food.
All food is comfort food, to some extent. It is always easier to face the world after eating a decent meal - or after preparing one. My reaction to a lousy day is usually to cook something involved and elaborate. My brain gets a break while my senses take over. But my reaction to an incredibly lousy day - the kind that makes you feel as though you've been run over by a Mack truck - is to prepare something simple, soft and warm with too much butter in it. Something that makes life seem less awful. Something like polenta with poached eggs.
Law school has (more than) its share of incredibly lousy days, so I make this fairly often. The polenta, butter, and eggs remain constant, but the kind of cheese and other additions vary, depending on what I have on hand. I picked up poblano peppers on my last shopping trip, so I settled on a Southwestern theme when making this last night, using Monterey Jack cheddar for the cheese.
This dish isn't exactly pretty, but it is appealing: pale yellow polenta flecked with green pepper, topped with a poached egg oozing golden yolk. There's not much technique to this dish, but it does need good ingredients. It's worth splurging on European butter, and the freshest eggs you can find.
Allow the poblanos to cool before removing the skins, which will come off easily when you rub them. Cut into fine dice and set aside. (Roasting leaves poblanos softened, but not fully cooked. If you prefer them a little less raw, you can sauté them briefly before dicing.)
Bring two cups of water to boil in a small saucepan. Add one cup of yellow polenta (coarsely ground cornmeal), and stir vigorously. Turn down the heat. Keep stirring. Add more water if it becomes difficult to stir. Cook until the individual grains are soft (think cooked rice), and the mixture is thick, but not stiff. Stir in the diced poblanos. Turn off the heat.
Take a generous lump of butter and add it to the polenta. Stir until it melts in. Follow with a heap of freshly-grated Monterey Jack. Add salt to taste. Keep the polenta warm while you make the poached egg(s).
(Matt gets credit for demonstrating the following poached-egg technique.)
Fill another small saucepan halfway with water, and bring to a simmer. Stir the water to form a swirling vortex; gently crack the egg into the vortex and cook until the white is set but the yolk is runny, around two to three minutes. Repeat the process if you'd like more eggs. Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer the egg to a plate with polenta. Tuck in.
Note: Leftover polenta can be poured into a cake tin, cut into slices, and lightly fried. It makes a good accompaniment for sweet potato and black bean stew.