Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Keeping Warm

It is cold.

We are entering phase two of winter. This is the phase that comes after the pretty holiday snow and before the it-should-be-spring-gray-snow. We are well into the cold temperatures that cut straight to the bone, the ones that require bundling up and then undoing sixteen layers upon entering train car, bus, shop, or restaurant. We slide down the sidewalks reaching out to support each other and track salt and snow into our entryways. Welcome to winter in the Midwest.

There are cold nights such as these that call for comfort dinners and if possible, dinners that don't require hours in front of the stove so that the night can instead be spent wrapped in a cozy blanket with a good book. On nights like this we need a quick fix, a meal that is both satisfying and fast. In our house, we avoid prepackaged meals, which in turn leaves us with very few quick and easy dinner options. Enter the carton of eggs.

Oh the many things you can do with eggs. Scrambled, poached, fried, baked. I recently finished reading Melissa Clark's fantastic book, In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite and have been working through her wonderful recipes. What I love about the book is how quick, convenient, and perfect the recipes are for weeknights. Clark recommended the recipes below for nights when you're likely to reach for a bowl of cereal or takeout menu. You know, the nights when despite having a well-stocked fridge, you announce, "We have nothing to eat." As someone who has poured her fair share of Cheerios and declared it dinner, this recipe had me at hello. What could be better than some comforting polenta, garlicky greens, a sprinkle of salty Parmesan, and a lovely fried egg? Not a whole lot, as we learned digging into our bowls last night. I recommend you grab your carton of eggs and get cooking.

Buttery Polenta with Parmesan and Olive Oil-Fried Eggs
Serves 4

4 1/2 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups polenta or corn grits (not quick-cooking)
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 large eggs
Coarse sea salt, for garnish

In a large pot, bring the water or broth to a low simmer. Stir in the polenta and salt. Simmer the polenta over medium-low heat, stirring frequently but not constantly, until thickened to taste, about 10 to 20 minutes. Stir in the butter and pepper and cover to keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Fry four of the eggs until the edges are crisp and golden and the yolks are still runny. Repeat with the remaining oil and eggs.

Divide the polenta into four bowls or plates, sprinkle with the Parmesan, and then place the chard and fried eggs gently on top. Garnish with salt and pepper.

Garlicky Swiss Chard

2 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Stack the chard leaves on top of each other (you can make several piles) and slice them into 1/4 inch strips.

Heat the oil in a very large skillet. Add the garlic and the chard, coating it in oil. Cover the pan and let cook for about 2 minutes, until wilted. Stir and cook for 2 minutes longer, uncovered. Season with salt. Serve in the same bowl or on the same plate as the polenta.

More eggs for dinner:
Eggs in Tomato Sauce
Huevos Rancheros
Eggs in Red Wine Sauce

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