We know the Southerners in the group are going to wonder why these aren't grits instead of polenta; after all, there are collard greens involved. Really, the difference in taste is pretty subtle. We happened to have some stone-ground corn meal from Oxford, Mississippi, which is finer than the grits we know, so we're calling this polenta. Please feel free to debate the topic in the comments.
Our greens are cooked with bacon, but you can easily leave it out for a vegetarian version.
Fried Eggs and Collard Greens over Polenta
4-5 strips of thick cut bacon (you can also use about 1/2 pound of pancetta)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 large bunch of collard greens, leaves stripped and chopped
1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth
2 cups whole milk
2 cups water
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
freshly grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Roughly chop the bacon into chunks. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat in a large sauce pan with a lid. Add the bacon and begin to cook. After about 5 minutes, add the onion. Continue to cook both until the bacon is crispy and the onion is soft and beginning to caramelize, about 8 to 10 more minutes.
Raise the heat to medium-high and add the collard greens. Stir and toss until the greens are coated in the oil and bacon fat and beginning to wilt. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat slightly and cover the pan. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, adding more chicken broth if the mixture gets dry, until the collard greens are dark green and soft.
Meanwhile, cook the polenta. Bring the milk and water to boil in a medium sauce pan. Add the corn meal in a steady stream, whisking as you go. Season with salt and pepper (about a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper to start, then taste). Continue to cook, whisking, until the polenta begins to thicken. Reduce the heat so that the polenta bubbles slowly and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. The cooking time may vary, depending on how coarse the corn meal is, but the finished polenta should give some resistance when you stir it with a whisk. Add the butter and more salt and pepper to taste. You can turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the polenta warm. When you are ready to serve it, stir to loosen it up and add a bit more milk if necessary.
Add a bit of butter or olive oil to a non-stick skilled and fry the eggs, two by two if necessary. To serve, put a big scoop of polenta on each plate and top it with the greens and bacon mixture and two fried eggs. Sprinkle with parmesan, salt, pepper, and hot sauce, if desired.
(Image: Elizabeth Passarella)