I have a theory in life, and it’s that everything tastes better with a fried egg on top. Okay, maybe not everything, but nearly everything. Ever since I was little, I can remember my Dad digging through the fridge some nights, frying up whatever leftovers we had in a pan, and topping it all with a crispy fried egg. I was constantly hungry as a child (certainly not for lack of food!), so I would always light up with excitement when I heard him rummaging around the kitchen several hours after dinner. Mom and Erika always said they weren’t hungry and didn’t want any, but my Dad always knew to make a little extra. Once the aroma filled the kitchen, they would come trotting in with the dog and soon enough everyone wanted a bite of whatever it was he created.
These bowls were dually inspired by my Dad, because he seems to throw together these kinds of meals effortlessly; and Ina Garten, because her Parmesan polenta recipe is the BOMB. You’ve heard my spiel on mushrooms before (see this post), so I won’t repeat myself but suffice to say these mushrooms are delightfully savory.
Let’s talk for a minute about how to get your egg super crispy. I use a lot of olive oil, and I fry each egg individually to maximize the crisp-factor. You want the oil to be screaming hot before you crack your egg into the pan. I once heard a chef say that when oil starts to shimmer, it’s “getting nervous.” For some reason I absolutely adore that expression. I don’t put the egg in the pan until I can tell the olive oil is getting nervous. When you do crack your egg, be careful! The hot oil is going to splatter a little bit. Basically, the extremely hot oil gives you a beautifully golden brown crust all along the edge of the egg. I take a metal spoon and use the oil in the pan to baste the whites of the egg. This allows you keep a runny center on the egg but cook the whites all the way through, and you never have to even flip the egg!
When you dig into this bowl of deliciousness, the first thing you need to do is break that egg yolk and let that liquid sunshine get nice and comfy with the polenta and mushrooms. Am I the only one who thinks it’s kind of sensual to watch an egg yolk drip all over its neighboring food? (I know Eric is with me on this one. Whenever I top our dinner with crispy fried eggs, he gets this little smirk on his face right before he breaks the yolk). Maybe we’re a little weird. If you haven’t spent this much time thinking about egg yolks, make this dish and take pleasure in the first bite when there is beautiful, glorious egg yolk running all throughout the bowl.
Polenta Bowls with Buttery Herbed Mushrooms and Crispy Fried Eggs
½ batch of Parmesan Polenta
½ lb mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (I used a great local shiitake, but most other mushrooms would probably work great!)
3 tablespoons butter
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Fresh Italian Parsley, for garnish (optional)
- Make the parmesan polenta according to these directions. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms to the pan and let them sit—don’t stir yet! Let them get golden brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Add the thyme to the pan. Stir the mushrooms sparingly and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so, until golden brown and tender. Turn the heat off and season the mushrooms with salt and pepper.
- Fry your eggs: In a small skillet, let the oil get “nervous” (AKA extremely hot) first. This should take around 3-4 minutes on fairly high heat. When your oil is screaming hot, add your egg (I do one at a time, but you could do both at the same time if you really want to). Using a small metal spoon, scoop up small amounts of oil from the pan and use it to baste the egg whites. Season the egg with salt and pepper. All in all this takes about 3 minutes until your egg should be perfectly crispy with a runny yolk.
- Assemble your bowls: Spoon a generous amount of polenta into each bowl. Top with sautéed mushrooms, a crispy fried egg, and fresh parsley.