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POLENTA CAKESPoached eggs perched atop a crisp polenta cake with an herb and mushroom topping make a perfectly satisfying meatless meal. A generous drizzle of a sweet and sticky balsamic reduction doesn’t hurt, either.

  • Yield: 8 Servings
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes


For Polenta Cakes
  • 8 ounces instant polenta*
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • For Balsamic Reduction
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
For Shiitake Topping
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup chopped shallots
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and
  • caps thinly sliced (about 4 cups stemmed and sliced)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • For Eggs
  • 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 8 large eggs
How to Make It
  1. Line a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with parchment paper or plastic wrap; lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. Prepare polenta according to package instructions; season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread warm polenta into prepared baking pan. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top, smoothing out the surface. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until firm.
  2. To prepare balsamic reduction, combine vinegar and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until thick, syrupy, and reduced by at least half. Transfer to a small dish to cool.
  3. 3
  4. Preheat oven to 200°F and place a baking sheet in oven. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  5. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut circles of the firm polenta and add to skillet, taking care not to crowd the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until lightly browned and crispy. Transfer to oven to keep warm and repeat with remaining rounds, adding the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil as needed. .
  6. To prepare topping, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted and the foam has subsided, add shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until mushrooms begin to brown. Stir in herbs and salt and pepper to taste, and cook for 2 minutes more.
  7. For poached eggs (see poaching tips), crack 1 egg into a small ramekin. Fill a saucepan with water to a depth of 2 inches. Add white vinegar and bring to a bare simmer over medium heat. Add egg and cook for 4½ to 5 minutes, or until whites are cooked and yolk is just starting to harden around the edges. Lift egg out of pan with a slotted spoon. Repeat with remaining eggs. (If eggs have cooled by the time you are ready to serve them, they can be reheated in simmering water for 20 to 30 seconds.)
  8. Top each polenta cake with a poached egg and a spoonful of mushroom mixture; drizzle with balsamic reduction and serve.

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