in the kitchen with: carrie and andrew purcell

today’s recipe comes from carrie and andrew purcell of pictures and pancakes. i fell in love with andrew’s photography and carrie’s food styling right away and asked if they would contribute to our growing list of recipes. so i’m thrilled to share their recipe for crispy ham and cheese breakfast polenta this afternoon. you can click here for the full recipe and instructions (and more gorgeous photos) or just click “read more” below. [thanks, andrew and carrie!]

about the cooks: carrie purcell is a food stylist and food writer. her husband, andrew purcell, is a lifestyle and food photographer. their work is based in los angeles but they love living in santa barbara and don’t mind the drive. carrie and andrew just celebrated their first anniversary and decided to start a photo and food blog as a creative outlet to share their work. when they’re not working they enjoy traveling, going to concerts, entertaining for friends, collecting concert posters, drinking good wine, and shopping for pieces to add to our ever expanding prop collection.

From Carrie: I love polenta in all it’s forms but just recently discovered it for breakfast! This is a play on grilled ham and cheese and is delicious topped with an egg cooked your favorite way – we like over easy but poached or fried would be great too. Feel free to change the ham and cheese to whatever you have in the refrigerator. I typically don’t use instant polenta but it makes the recipe much quicker to make for breakfast.

Crispy Ham & Cheese Breakfast Polenta
serves 6

6 cups water
2 cups instant polenta
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 cup grated parmesan
salt & pepper
1 cup grated gruyere
6 slices ham
2-3 tbs olive oil
3 leeks, cleaned thoroughly & thinly sliced
2 cups baby spinach
6 large eggs

Place the water in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the polenta and cook while stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in butter, parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Pour half the polenta on a lightly greased 12×8.5″ half sheet pan and spread evenly. Cover with slices of ham and gruyere cheese and then spread remaining polenta over top evenly. Refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and add leeks. Cook slowly until tender, about 8-10 minutes, adding 1 more tablespoon of oil if needed. Add spinach and toss until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut polenta into 6 large squares and trim the edges evenly. Then cut each square into 2 rectangles. Heat a non-stick sauté pan or cast iron griddle over medium high heat. Cook the polenta for 4-6 minutes per side or until golden brown on top and cheese has melted. Serve with a scoop of sauted leeks and spinach and top with an egg your favorite way.

Anita Barnard

Yum. That looks good. I’m sure it would be great without the ham too…maybe add a bit of kalamata olive for that salty kick

Capitola Girl

I love polenta and never thought of serving it for breakfast! The recipe looks fantastic, and I will certainly be trying it.


Their work is so inspirational. Easy on the eyes and the stomach. I love it.

Thanks for helping to spread their good word!


Now that looks like a meal.
I think I would have it for a late night dinner, with a crisp glass of white.

Sweet Fuzz

Thanks for the recipe. I’ve never tried polenta, but I’ve seen it quite a bit on Food Network. I’ll have to give it a try…now if you’ll excuse me, I’m starving :)


We have chickens and I’m always looking for great egg recipes. I’ll be adding this to my brunch file. Thanks!


I made this for a brunch with friends. It was fantastic, and the perfect recipe because I could do so much of the prep work the night before! I only had to poach the eggs and griddle up the little polenta guys and that was it. Lovely!