Sometimes the hardest things to master are the basics.
I’ve read that the true test of a great cook is how well they can cook the simplest items. A roast chicken. A perfectly hard-boiled egg (no gray-green yolk…yuck!). Spaghetti.
My nemesis, much to the probable chagrin of my ancestors, has been polenta. I can make Cream of Wheat, I can make oatmeal, even a pretty righteous bechamel sauce (but then again, with oatmeal, if it’s lumpy, you really don’t even notice. Even mashed potatoes. What’s one lump in the scheme of things? Just drown it in gravy).
But polenta. That bugger. Somehow it goes from soupy to clumpy in a nano-second and if you haven’t been paying attenzione, you are sunk. Clump-lump city. Not pretty. I’ve found it’s also weirdly difficult to season, and I’m not even sure why. And trying to get it to firm up so that you can cut it into little squares and put other ingredients on it? Yikes. Not happening.
Polenta, why do you scorn me so?
Therefore, I recently caved. I’m not one to buy pre-made things in the grocery store EVER, but I’ve just thrown in the towel with the corn meal mush. Bring on the ready-made tube of Polenta (I say as I quickly grab the item off the shelf, looking around like I’m committing some kind of major crime…what if someone sees me?!)! It’s firm, you can cut it…GLORY BE! Polenta that works! Halle-flippin’-lujah!
And victory number two: I’ve actually discovered something that I can make with it that my whole family likes. With the polenta mush there were no takers except me and the hubby, and he did so hesitantly siting it’s all-too-close-relation to Cream of Wheat. BUT, I’ve since stumbled on Polenta Fries! You slice up the polenta (eh-hem…store bought) into french fries shapes, toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake on a cookie sheet at 425 for about 20 minutes. When you take them out, grate some Parmesan over the top…BIG HIT!
In my mind, I have won the battle with my nemesis. Tee hee.
Take that, corn meal mush.