Polenta 'Pizza' with Pancetta, Spinach and Poached Egg

from Eggs on Sunday

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe

You can make the polenta the night before, chill it on the baking sheet overnight, and finish the preparation in the morning.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, more for pan
1/2 cup milk, preferably whole
kosher or sea salt
1 cup coarse cornmeal
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) chopped pancetta
1 pound spinach, washed, trimmed and dried
1 to 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella and sharp cheddar cheese, mixed
4 large eggs (preferably organic)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and brush a layer of olive oil on a baking sheet.

Pour 2 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the cornmeal in a slow stream, whisking constantly as it’s added so no lumps form. Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, whisking frequently, until the polenta is thick and it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. The consistency should be that of thick oatmeal; if it’s too thick, you can whisk in a little water.

Stir 1 tablespoon oil into the cooked polenta, then spoon it out onto the oiled baking sheet. You’ll need to work fairly quickly as the polenta sets up as it cools. Spread the polenta into a round about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle the round with salt and pepper, let it cool down so it’s no longer hot and then cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill and firm up the polenta, at least 1 hour (you can make the polenta a day ahead and chill overnight if you like.)

When you’re ready to bake the polenta, put it in the 450 degree oven for about 25 minutes, until it just begins to brown a little on the edges. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the onion and pancetta. Cook until the pancetta is browned and the onion is soft, about 10 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to remove the onion and pancetta to a bowl. Set aside.

Cook the spinach in the same skillet until it releases its water and the pan becomes dry. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper, and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a simmer, for poaching the eggs. Take the polenta out of the oven, spread the grated cheese over the top, then spread the sauteed onions, pancetta, and spinach on top of the cheese. Put the pizza back into the oven while you poach the eggs. I usually poach my eggs for 3 minutes in simmering water; the polenta should be ready (cheese melted) in the same amount of time.

To serve, cut the polenta into 4 wedges and top each with a poached egg. Drizzle each portion with a little more olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 4.