Sunday, July 12, 2009

Beautiful Polenta Disaster

Beautiful Polenta Disaster
A week of bad luck in cooking has ended. I don't remember the first thing I messed up cooking this week, but the last was polenta. It started with a recipe from the Wholefoods Cookbook, which I've never really used before. So I read 3/4 through and decided how this Polenta thing would be. It said "this looks like a lot of work, but it's not, it's really just assembly". So I didn't finish reading the recipe, I just started. Oops, all out of 3-minute polenta, a staple in my kitchen. Oops, no sundried tomatoes in the fridge. Where'd those go? Fine, I'd just make roasted red pepper sauce instead. But all I had was a fresh bell pepper. I set to roasting it under the broiler, and finding my bag of corn meal. So I assumed this was a regular old 'cool the polenta, cut it into squares and cook again' kind of recipe. But the recipe called for cream cheese, so I added it. It didn't occur to me that it would cause the polenta to remain creamy. So after 30 minutes I had my cooled tray of polenta, roasted red pepper sauce and fresh basil pesto. I thought it would be time to re-cook the polenta squares and create a layercake of sauce and squares. Not the case. I started to read the "assembly" instructions only to find out that it takes hours or days to "assemble". Much like a layered jello dessert, this dish required a layer spread in a springform pan, freezing, layering, freezing, layering and freezing OVERNIGHT. WTF!! So I thought, no problem - I'll just make it the way I thought before. But the polenta was still creamy. Even after 10 minutes under the broiler it turned into a crispy skin topped mush. I made it nice and pretty on the plate, but ultimately it was mush topped with mush, mush, and sauce. Lesson 1: Always read the whole recipe. Lesson 2: Cream cheese in polenta = creamy. Lesson 3: Stick to recipes with pictures.

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