Monday, May 3, 2010

Polenta with Swiss Chard, Pancetta, and a Fried Egg: A Group Recipe!

Today in my column for 2010 JAMES BEARD AWARD WINNING FOOD BLOG Serious Eats: Greek Orzo Salad. I want to eat it as my job. (Congrats, you guys!)

Sweet readers! You did it! Using last week’s Ask the Internet column, you jointly refined an okay recipe to be inexpensive, healthy, and totes delicious. Color me excited.

To recap: last week, I posted that I’d been having problems with a new dish, Parmesan Polenta with Spinach and a Fried Egg. The polenta was dry, the spinach left a funky aftertaste, the texture was mushy, and it lacked overall oomph. Based on your suggestions, I experimented with it three separate times, tweaking the ingredients and methodology a little each time. It kind of went like this:

Changes: For the polenta: skipped the parmesan, replaced milk and water with chicken broth, increased the amount, and stirred in butter at the end. Added a little more garlic and red pepper flakes to the spinach, and cooked it for a slightly shorter period of time. Left the egg as-was.
Result: Improved polenta flavor and texture. Egg so-so. Spinach and oomph still questionable.

Changes: Sauteed one ounce of chopped pancetta to start. Stirred it into polenta, and used the leftover oil to cook the garlic, red pepper flakes, and quick-wilt the spinach. Then, used the leftovers to “fry”/steam the egg.
Result: Pancetta an EXCELLENT addition – increased flavor and textural fun-ness. Didn’t need extra fat to cook the egg, either. Spinach continued to be the bane of my existence.

Changes: Swapped Swiss chard for spinach.
Result: VICTORY, sweet readers. The chard gave it all the scrumptious veggie goodness with nary a fraction of that annoying metallic residue. Now we dance!

Ultimately, the whole shebang was maybe a tad heavier and a few cents more expensive than I intended. But the former makes it suitable for dinners, and the latter can be easily remedied by buying Swiss chard in season. (Which I did not do. Mine was plated in gold, apparently.) These are minor quibbles, though. Overall, the whole thing rocked my socks. (And I’m not even wearing any. Go figure.)

So, I’m raising a pretend glass of champagne to y’all. Then I’m pretend drinking it. After that, I’m pretend stumbling around and wondering why the apartment is spinning. Finally, I'm pretend sauntering downstairs, pretend shoving my face into the fridge, and pretend eating the leftover pancetta raw. Woo hoo!


If you like this recipe, you might also quite enjoy:

Polenta with Swiss Chard, Pancetta, and a “Fried” Egg
Serves 2.
With help from Carrie, Ira, Morgan, Ona, Evelyn, Clea, Michelle, Meagan, Anna N., Claire Dawson, Diane, Katy, Rick, Val, anotheryarn, biankat, wosnes, Happy in Nevada, Katie, Rachel, LaDonna, JohnB, Deeds, Mary Joy, Dana, Elizabeth, Sassy Molassy, Rebecca, and sweet, sweet Anonymous.

2/3 cup corn meal
1 14.5-ounce can low-sodium, reduced-fat chicken broth
1 teaspoon butter
1 ounce thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 ounces fresh Swiss chard, stemmed and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 eggs
2 teaspoons parmesan
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1) In a medium pot, whisk the cornmeal and broth together. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until all liquid is absorbed. This should take 8 to 12 minutes. When finished, turn off heat. Stir in butter until melted. Set aside.

2) Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, cook pancetta over medium heat until it releases its fat and is almost crispy. This should take 8 to 12 minutes. Remove meat from pan with a spoon, and stir into polenta. Evenly distribute the mixture between two serving bowls.

3) Turn skillet heat up to medium-high. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook in pancetta oil until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds, stirring frequently. Add Swiss chard. Saute about 2 minutes, until just barely wilted. Spoon on top of polenta.

4) Crack two eggs into the skillet, making sure you keep the yolks intact. Add a teaspoon of water to the side of the skillet and cover. Cook 2 to 4 minutes, until the barest white film appears on the top of each egg yolk. Gently place the eggs (one each) on the polenta and chard. Sprinkle each bowl with 1 teaspoon parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price Per Serving
333 calories, 12.2 g fat, 4.4 g fiber, 15.9 g protein, $2.13

2/3 cup cornmeal: 336 calories, 1.6 g fat, 6.8 g fiber, 7.8 g protein, $0.30
1 14.5-ounce can l-s, r-f chicken broth: 9 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g fiber, 1.8 g protein, $0.75
1 teaspoon butter: 34 calories, 3.8 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 g fiber, $0.03
1 ounce thinly sliced pancetta, chopped: 100 calories, 8 g fat, 0 g fiber, 6 g protein, $1.05
1 small clove garlic, minced: 4 calories, 0 g fat, 0.1 g fiber, 0.2 g protein, $0.03
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.04
4 ounces fresh Swiss chard: 22 calories, 0.2 g fat, 1.8 g fiber, 2 g protein, $1.49
2 eggs: 147 calories, 9.9 g fat, 0 g fiber, 12.6 g protein, $0.42
2 teaspoons parmesan: 14 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g fiber, 1.3 g protein, $0.12
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste: negligible calories, fat, fiber, and protein, $0.02
TOTALS: 666 calories, 24.5 g fat, 8.7 g fiber, 31.7 g protein, $4.25
PER SERVING (TOTALS/2): 333 calories, 12.2 g fat, 4.4 g fiber, 15.9 g protein, $2.13

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