These individual baked eggs with polenta and mushrooms are what you yearn for as simple weekday (or weeknight) comfort food. You’ll be so taken, you’ll want to toss them together again for brunch when you’re in the mood to impress.–Jenny Howard
Baked Eggs with Polenta and Mushrooms
- 4 large (about 1½ cups capacity) ovenproof coffee mugs, ramekins, or glass cups
For the mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the mugs or ramekins
- 1/2 cup pancetta or guanciale, cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) dice
- 3 portobello mushrooms, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) dice
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- Two (3-inch) sprigs fresh thyme
- Two (3-inch) sprigs fresh mint
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the polenta
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 3/4 cup instant polenta
- 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino Romano (optional)
For the baked eggs
- 4 large eggs
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 to 3 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino Romano
Make the mushrooms
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C).
- In a large nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 4 minutes.
- Stir in the mushrooms, garlic, thyme, and mint, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid and begin to brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and discard the garlic and herbs.
Make the polenta
- In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the water, butter, and salt to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and very gradually sprinkle in the polenta, stirring constantly to avoid dry lumps. Cook the polenta just until it begins to thicken, about 1 minute.
- Remove the polenta from the heat. It should only be lightly thickened; it will firm up during baking.
- Stir in the pecorino, if using.
Make the baked eggs
- Lightly oil 4 ovenproof coffee mugs or ramekins.
- Spoon half the mushroom mixture into the mugs, dividing it evenly. Top each with equal amounts of the polenta followed by the remaining mushrooms.
- Use a spoon to make a slight indentation in the top layer of mushrooms. Carefully break an egg into each mug and lightly season with salt and pepper.
☞ TESTER TIP: Be sure to leave enough room in each mug to accommodate the egg, which will expand slightly as it bakes.
- Sprinkle the pecorino evenly over the eggs, dividing it evenly among the mugs.
- Place the mugs on a large rimmed baking sheet. Top the mugs with a second baking sheet or a sheet of aluminum foil.
- Bake until the egg whites are set and the yolks are still runny, 10 to 14 minutes.
- Remove the mugs from the oven. Let stand for a few minutes and serve hot.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is an awesome go-to weeknight dinner or quick weekend brunch. Everything is probably in the pantry already and it comes together very, very quickly. I even made the polenta and mushrooms ahead of time, separately, and was able to put assemble the cups right before mealtime and it worked beautifully.
I cannot wait to make this on a larger scale and serve to guests since it feels so indulgent and fancy…who wouldn’t love warm polenta with the rich flavors of the mushrooms and runny egg that you can dig into with a spoon on a cold fall day?
One change I might make would be to add more cheese, both to the polenta and on top of the whole thing, but that’s probably more a matter of personal preference.
This polenta is the perfect brunch dish. But it’s also a great breakfast/lunch/dinner dish, rich and flavorful, with creamy polenta and the earthy taste of mushrooms, completed by the great texture of egg and cheese on top. Great comfort food!
I used 3 portobello mushrooms and 3 tbsp grated Pecorino instead of 2.
This is a comforting brunch or even a fall dinner dish that’s easy to prepare. In the time it takes to preheat the oven, the mushrooms can be diced. You can use pre-diced pancetta and instant polenta to make this all pull together very quickly.
I felt a little tweak was needed. I would add some flavor to the polenta, cooking it more like I normally would in either broth or a combination of milk and water or maybe stirring in a little of the cheese.
We cooked this 3 times, using portobellas and creminis and then King Oysters (all worked nicely) and used cast iron mini coquettes twice and finally a slightly larger stoneware soup mug. The polenta makes a bit more than you need if using smaller coquettes but more comfortably fit in the larger stoneware soup bowls (handled like you might use for French Onion soup).
Lesson learned from the first batch: leave enough room for the egg (the egg white rapidly will slide over the rim if there isn’t enough room when you add the egg) and maybe create a slight well by pressing the second layer of mushrooms in gently with a spoon or spatula in the center first. Also, if the pancetta is hopping out of the pan, lower the heat and it is time to add the mushrooms!
I had never used instant polenta before—it comes together very quickly and, in fact, if you cook to the recipe, I suggest you sift in the polenta to the boiling water while stirring gently or whisking, so you don’t end up with any dry lumps. I actually found it was slightly better to start sifting it in a bit before the boil when I tried it with broth, and finally, using a stoneground cornmeal from Hayden Mills for my final version, along with a tablespoon or two of lemon juice in the broth and skipping additional salt since the broth was salted. The cornmeal took maybe 5 minutes to thicken and was done at the lowest heat, but was worth it as the texture was more interesting (a blend of fine and medium coarse that you get with stoneground. That refinement turned this into something worthy of brunch with guests. Add an extra sprig of thyme on top!
I don’t see why this would not also work with maitake or other favourite mushrooms (actually anything other than beech mushrooms which give up too much water), and quick cooking grits would work fine!