When I first envisioned this dish, it was a smooth corn purée with a crispy fried egg. But as I started testing, my chef de cuisine Jake Stevens taught me a trick he learned while working at the Tasting Kitchen in Venice, California: grating fresh ears of corn on a box grater. This captures all of the juices and starches, which helps to emulsify the kernels into something that resembles polenta texturally but tastes like fresh corn.
Frying the egg this way—until the egg whites begin to bubble and the bottom gets all golden brown and crispy but the yolk stays perfectly runny—makes for a dramatic presentation.
This is designed to be a small, rich plate that you can serve with toast for breakfast or with a salad for lunch or dinner.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 4 ears yellow corn
- 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 0.175 teaspoon salt
- 0.25 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 eggs
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 0.5 teaspoon flaky finishing salt
- 0.75 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Celery leaf, for garnish (optional)
- Hot sauce, for serving (optional)
- MAKE THE FRESH CORN POLENTA Lay two pieces of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Shuck the corn and remove any silk. Snap each ear in half. On the largest holes of a box grater, grate the corn to the cob over the parchment to capture all of the kernels and corn juices. Carefully lift the paper and pour everything into a bowl.
- In a saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the corn and its juices, the salt, and the pepper and cook, stirring constantly. Don’t add any liquid unless you really have to, but if the corn sticks and looks very dry, add 1 or 2 tablespoons water. Stir and taste often for about 5 minutes, until no liquid is left and none of the corn tastes raw. Turn off the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Divide the corn among four plates.
- MAKE THE EGGS Cook the eggs one at a time. Crack the first egg into a ramekin or teacup. Heat a 9-inch (or smaller) black steel or nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil and heat until the surface is rippling slightly but not smoking. With the pan on the burner, tilt the pan at a 45-degree angle toward you and pour the egg into the hot pool of oil. If the oil is hot enough, the white should spread only a little—as soon as this happens, use a shallow soupspoon to spoon the edges of the egg white back onto the egg so the shape stays compact. Lift the edges of the egg ever so slightly with the spoon to ensure they aren’t sticking to the pan. Using the spoon, gently but quickly baste the hot oil onto the egg white, being careful to avoid the yolk. Continue spooning the hot oil onto the white until the white is almost set, about 45 seconds.
- Just before the white is fully set, sprinkle the entire egg with one-quarter of the finishing salt and pepper. When the white is opaque, using a fish spatula, transfer the egg directly on top of a serving of corn. Repeat with the remaining eggs, adding the remaining 1 tablespoon oil as necessary, then garnish each plate with a celery leaf and serve immediately with hot sauce alongside.