Ever notice how you go through phases with certain dishes — practically living off of them for months and then one day you just...stop? Back when my husband and I first moved in together, polenta featured big in our weekly meal routine. It was easy, it was cheap, and it was darn good, especially with a handful of shredded cheese stirred into the pot.
But time flies and tastes change, and I recently realized that it had been years since I last made polenta for a simple weeknight meal. Today's one-bowl meal is a reminder of how good warm polenta and a handful of fresh ingredients can truly be.
My unintended polenta hiatus might have stretched even longer if it weren't for a recipe from Sarah Copeland's new book Feast — an easy supper of polenta topped with a sautéed winter greens, a poached egg, and blue cheese. Finding this recipe produced such an instant craving that I made it that very night, hitting three different grocery stores in pursuit of radicchio. (Worth it.)
The upstart of this perfect mid-winter meal was the immediate return of polenta to my kitchen. Once leftovers from that first polenta bowl were gone, I made this dish to take its place. It's an easy mix of things that I almost always have in my fridge, namely chicken sausage, a bag of baby spinach, and a handful of cherry tomatoes.
Sliced into thick coins and seared golden, the chicken sausage makes a chewy counterpart to both the creamy polenta and the silky strands of garlic-scented spinach. The cherry tomatoes add a pop of flavor and color, while a poached egg laid over each bowl is the coup de resistance that brings it all together. I used a spicy andouille-style sausage for my recipe, but you could really use whichever kind you happen to have.
The really beautiful part of this meal is that comes together in literally 30 minutes. Get the polenta on the stove first, then work on the spinach and sausage topping. Put the eggs in the water to poach just before you're ready to eat and assemble the bowls as they're cooking. The whole meal is on the table amazingly fast.
Polenta is back, baby! This easy dinner just earned itself (re-earned?!) a spot in my rotation of weeknight meals.
Polenta Bowl with Garlicky Spinach, Chicken Sausage & Poached Egg
4 cups water (or a mix of water and milk)
1 cup polenta or cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 cup) goat cheese, shredded cheddar, or other cheese, plus more to serve
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 links chicken sausage, any kind, sliced into coins
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon chili flakes, plus more to serve
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
6 ounces baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs (or 1 per person)
In a 2- to 3-quart saucepan with a lid, bring the water to a rolling boil. Pour in the polenta while whisking continuously. Stir in the salt and continue whisking until the polenta has thickened slightly. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook the polenta for 20 to 30 minutes, whisking vigorously every 10 minutes. The polenta is done when it is creamy, tastes tender, and has thickened into a porridge.
Remove the polenta from heat and stir in the cheese until the cheese has melted. Cover the pot and set aside until ready to serve.
→ For more details: How To Make Creamy Stovetop Polenta
When the polenta is about 10 minutes from finishing, prepare the topping. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the chicken sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is browned and golden on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and chili flakes, and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the cherry tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle handfuls of the spinach over the pan, adding more as each handful begins to wilt. Cook until the spinach is wilted and silky, but still bright green. Sprinkle with salt and remove the pan from heat.
Fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water and set over medium-high heat. Crack each of the eggs into a measuring cup and set near the stove. When the water comes to a rapid simmer, reduce the heat to low and slip the eggs into the water one at a time. Cook for 4 1/2 minutes for runny yolks or 5 1/2 minutes for set yolks. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer directly to polenta bowls.
Assemble the bowls while the eggs are cooking. Spoon polenta into the bottom of each individual serving bowl. Lay a scoop of the topping over the polenta. When the eggs are ready, transfer them to the bowls. Sprinkle with extra chili flakes or cheese and serve immediately.
Any leftover polenta will set as it cools, but can be stored and reheated for up to a week; stir a splash of milk or water into the polenta after microwaving to make it creamy again. Store leftover topping separately for up to a week. Poach eggs just before serving.
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)