Cheesy Baked Polenta with Eggs and Italian Sausage

It’s time to put an egg on top of something.  It’s been a while since an egg has adorned the top of one of our dishes - since last August when I posted this, so we’re a bit overdue.  And besides, I’m in a celebratory mood right now.  After losing three of our chickens this year, sadly, we were left with three who were no longer laying eggs.  So we figured with three menopausal chickens, our days of fresh eggs were over until we could replenish the brood in the spring.  But Rosie (actually, they’re all named Rosie) surprised us last week by starting to lay again, so we’re happily enjoying fresh eggs once more.  And this seemed like an obviously delicious way to celebrate.

So in honor of Rosie’s new-found youth, here’s our next installment of “everything’s better with a fried egg on top”.  Well, technically, these eggs aren’t actually fried, but gently baked on top of cheesy polenta.  As it turns out, polenta and soft eggs are very well suited for each other.  Add a little crumbled sausage and some grated parmesan cheese, and we’ve got something very special indeed.  Oh, and as a bonus, it’s also VERY easy to throw together.

We start our polenta adventure by stirring some polenta (basically cornmeal, but often a little more coarsely ground) into boiling water and cooking that for about 15 minutes, stirring to create a creamy texture. 

Then we stir in some cheese and spoon our polenta into a baking dish, making little wells for the eggs to nestle into.  Crack an egg into each little well, then top it all with cooked, crumbled sausage and a nice sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese.

Then bake for about 15 minutes and, if necessary, broil briefly to cook the egg whites.  And that’s it!  You’re done!  And what you’ve got is a quick, nutritious meal that is low in carbs and high in magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorous and vitamin B6.  I didn’t make that up.  Easy, delicious and healthy… the trifecta of culinary deliciousness.  With an egg on top.  Just for you.  Here’s the recipe…

CHEESY BAKED POLENTA WITH EGGS AND ITALIAN SAUSAGE

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy of Eating Well magazine

This dish would be equally as good for breakfast, dinner, or brunch.  The polenta can be made a couple of hours ahead and held at room temperature until ready to assemble.  The original recipe calls for a 9x13 pan, which would work well for a brunch dish, but I like using a smaller baking dish (10-inch round) which created a softer polenta and a little more polenta per egg.  

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup finely chopped onion

4 cups water, plus more as needed

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1
teaspoon salt
6 ounces Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
1/2 cup shredded fontina or mozzarella (I used a 4-cheese Italian blend)

¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided

6 large eggs (or however many will fit in your baking dish)

DIRECTIONS

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, but not browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Gradually whisk cornmeal into the boiling water. Add salt and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the polenta bubbles, 1 to 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking frequently, until very thick, 10 to 15 minutes. (Alternatively, once the polenta comes to a boil, transfer it to the top of a double boiler, cover, and place over barely simmering water for 25 minutes. This is convenient, because you don't need to stir it as it cooks).

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add sausage. Cook, stirring and breaking the sausage into small pieces with a spoon, until lightly browned and no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Drain if necessary and transfer to a cutting board; let cool. Finely chop when cool enough to handle.

Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

When the polenta is done, stir in fontina (or mozzarella) and ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. If the polenta seems too stiff, add small amounts of water to thin it to a thick but not stiff consistency. Spread the polenta in the prepared pan.

Make six 2-inch-wide indentations in the polenta with the back of a tablespoon. Break eggs, one at a time, into a custard cup and slip one into each indentation. Scatter the sausage on the polenta and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano evenly on top of the eggs.

Bake the casserole for 15 minutes. Then broil until the egg whites are set, 2 to 4 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

 Note:  My eggs cooked up perfectly following the recipe, but if your oven tends to run hot, keep an eye on the eggs so that they don’t overcook.

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