Irresistible Carbonara Polenta
Carbonara is one of those comfort foods that just makes me happy. It's so simple: guanciale, cream, egg, and pecorino, with lots of black pepper. Typically you'll find it swimming between toothsome tendrils of pasta, but today I decided to mix it up. Poached eggs on cheesy grits is another comfort-food favorite of mine, and the grits/polenta seemed like the perfect canvas for carbonara, especially with the poached egg on top. Make sure to enjoy it while it's hot, and mix the poached egg straight in. Recipe below!
NOTE: Serves 4
1/4 cup guanciale
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 3/4 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup coarsely ground grits (I used Bob’s Red Mill Grits, but cornmeal or polenta will also work)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano
1/4 cup cream
4 eggs, poached
Place the guanciale in a cold pot with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and place over medium heat; the oil will help the rendering process go a little faster. Once the guanciale has rendered out about half its fat (about seven to 10 minutes), drop the pasta into the water. Make sure to slowly cook down the guanciale—no browning; you want it to look translucent and crisp. Remove the guanciale to a plate, but leave the fat in the pot.
Combine 1 cup of the water, the milk, and chicken broth in the pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Add the polenta gradually, whisking constantly. When the mixture starts to boil rapidly, reduce the heat to medium low, a steady but not-too-vigorous bubble, and switch to a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Stir in the butter, cream, and pecorino. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper.
Pour the polenta out onto a large serving platter or into individual bowls. Drizzle the surface with olive oil and shower it with more pecorino. Serve warm with poached eggs. If the polenta ever gets gummy, just reheat and add more milk to loosen it up.