Lush Life

To be a lush chef, does not mean to drink in excess - this can result in scary fires and bad dishes. A lush chef is one who enjoys gourmet cooking/baking, often with fresh ingredients and the smart use of one's home bar. If there happens to be half a bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a sip of brandy left over...well, one cannot be wasteful. I give you permission to imbibe.

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The Lush Chef
Twitter: @thelushchef Provenance: Santa Monica Dish: Coq au Vin Spirit: Whiskey Wine: Malbec Beer: Hefeweizen Farmer's Market: Santa Monica on Main Street
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Apr 16, 2013

Crispy Polenta with Poached Eggs, Roasted Tomatoes & Herbed Mushrooms

Libations left over: 1/4 cup dry vermouth...
Libations left over: Well, you could make yourself a martini, but before 3pm might be a little early... 
I haven't posted any breakfast recipes in a while, and now that the weather is getting warmer by the beach, I plan on hosting more brunches.  So don't worry, lushes!  In the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting some brunch-worthy recipes and cocktails to start your day off right.  If you're feeling ambitious and serving a small crowd, this Crispy Polenta with Poached Eggs, Roasted Tomatoes and Herbed Mushrooms from The Kitchn is not only fancy looking, but incredibly comforting.

I used Martini & Rossi dry vermouth to sauté the mushrooms in and didn't need to cook them as long at The Kitchn suggested.  Just make sure the majority of the liquid burns off.  Also, instead of making their tomato jam, I just used some roasted cherry tomatoes I had on hand.  I always keep little bags of slow roasted tomatoes in my freezer, so I can pull them out to top on bruschetta, chicken, fish or pasta.  If you plan on going that route, make the tomatoes a couple hours in advance.  If you've never poached eggs before and are running away in fear from this recipe, hold your horses.  It's time you learned, and trust me, you won't regret it.  I included instructions below, compliments of Smitten Kitchen.  To make this dish a little more significant, I used three rounds of polenta and two poached eggs per serving, but feel free to cut down if you plan on making a few other dishes for brunch.

Crispy Polenta with Poached Eggs, Roasted Tomatoes & Herbed Mushrooms - serves 2-4
Ingredients for Roasted Tomatoes:
  • 1-2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients for Herbed Mushrooms:
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Leaves from 3 long stalks of fresh thyme
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth (I used Martini & Rossi)
Ingredients for Polenta:
  • 18 oz roll of cooked polenta
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
Ingredients for Poached Eggs:
  • 4-8 fresh eggs
  • 1 Tbs white vinegar
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients for garnish:
  • Plain yogurt
  • Sour cream
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
To make the Roasted Tomatoes:
- Preheat oven to 225.
- Spread out the tomatoes on a baking sheet.
- Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast for two hours, rotating the pan and stirring up the tomatoes about every 30 minutes.

To make the Herbed Mushrooms:
- In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter.
- Add the mushrooms and cook without flipping or stirring them for about 5 minutes.  They should get nicely browned and toasty.
- Stir and let them cook for about another 5 minutes and add the thyme, salt and pepper.
- When the mushrooms have browned on both sides, add the vermouth and turn the heat down to low.
- Simmer the mushrooms and stir frequently, or until the mushrooms are tender. The original recipe called for 10 minutes, but mine softened up much quicker.
- Set the mushrooms aside and warm up until just before serving.

To make the Polenta:
- Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch thick slices and pat each one dry.
- In a medium to large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil.
When the oil is hot, carefully add the polenta slices a few at a time, so as not to crowd the skillet.
- Cook the slices for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until they're crispy.
- Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

To make the Poached Eggs:
- In a small pot filled 3/4 full with water and 1 Tbs of white vinegar, bring the water to the point just before it simmers.
- Turn the temperature down just a bit so it doesn't bubble.
- Crack an egg into a small bowl or cup.
- Make a whirlpool in the water with a spatula or spoon and drop the egg into that whirlpool.
- The egg white should immediately start coagulating, and you can help shape it if needed by gently pushing in some of the sides with your spatula.
- Let the egg cook for about 3-4 minutes.
- Remove and set on a paper towel-lined plate.
- If you're poaching eggs for a bunch of guests, you can always reheat the eggs a little in hot water.

To assemble:
- Place 2-3 rounds of the crispy polenta on a plate.
- Top with warmed-up herbed mushrooms and then the roasted tomatoes.
- Top with 1-2 poached eggs and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Feel free to garnish with a little plain yogurt, sour cream or shaved Parmesan cheese.


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