Friday, February 19, 2010

I made polenta!

Mind you, I've never actually had it before, but I've been seeing it everywhere, on every cooking blog, and it looked so easy so I thought, "hey! It's veggie night, why not just give it a go?!" I was kinda nervous about it since I didn't know what it was supposed to taste like (and, technically, I guess I still don't) and more importantly, I didn't know whether Idle Husband would like it or not. I figured there was about an 80% chance of him liking it since the recipe called for the addition of cheese -- he's pretty well sold on anything if it involves cheese.

So I used this recipe here from Tasty Kitchen. And everything about it was super easy -- except, I should tell you, you have to use a larger pot. Like, don't use one that has a perfect water to pot ratio. Get one that gives you crazy amounts of headspace, cuz as soon as I started adding the cornmeal, that puppy quickly overflowed out of the pot and into at least three of the burners on my stove. And there I was begging and pleading for it to stop, but it just laughed in my face and continued gurgling. Speaking of gurgling, it also bubbled and spit during the whole 15 minute cook time. Therefore, I also recommend using a lid. Maybe this is common polenta knowledge, but we Canadians don't do polenta (as far as my 28 years in this country have dictated) so it would have been superfantabulously awesome for that sort of thing to have been mentioned in the recipe.

Anyhoo. Polenta decided on, I thought I'd whip up a mushroom, shrimp, and onion stir-fry-type thing to put on top. I figured the shrimp had been in our freezer for way too long and IH loves loves loves mushrooms so how could this plan go wrong? Besides, I wanted to try these dried shiitake mushrooms I'd purchased. I've never used dried mushrooms, but I had had my eye on them for a while and they seemed like something that would be super handy to have in the cupboard. Actually, IH probably won't remember, but I asked his opinion of these mushrooms when we were in the store once. He wrinkled up his face and wholeheartedly refused to purchase them or to even think about purchasing them. So we didn't and I pondered them for another week until I finally thought, "No. We should try these. There's no harm in it. I'm too curious to let them go." And thus, nerve-wracking decision #2 had been made.

Here's what I learned about the mushrooms. Soaking them in luke warm water for 10 minutes is not enough soaking time. They were still very much hard and crunchy inside. I couldn't even get a knife through them without risking serious injury. I think if I had used boiling water (instead of the hottest tap water), and soaked them for 15-20 minutes it would have been a lot better. Instead, I had to keep going and checking and then test cutting and then putting them back into fresh hot tap water again, which went on for about 30 minutes. Eventually, I got to a point where I could take the thicker stems off a few and just go with what I had. I was sad I had to waste 4 stems, but so be it.

Anyway, here's my method for the mushroom/onion/shrimp thing:
1. saute a small onion in a tablespoon of oil
2. add 4 cloves of garlic
3. add 4 button mushrooms and about 10 shiitake mushrooms, rough chopped in pieces
4. add precooked, still frozen, salad shrimp (the smaller ones)
5. add salt, lots of pepper, garlic powder, vegetable seasoning, a tablespoon or two of lemon juice
6. simmer until all the juice is absorbed, the shrimp are no longer frozen, and the pan is semi-dry
7. serve on mozzarella and parmasan spiked polenta (oh yeah, I didn't have goat cheese sitting around like the recipe called for. Who has goat cheese just sitting around in their fridge?)

The Verdict?
Idle Husband love love loved the shiitake mushrooms! And, yes, specifically those mushrooms! Loved the polenta! Loved the combination! Had two large platefuls! Success!! I'll definitely keep this meal idea around for our veggie nights. It was super easy to make and everything cooked within 15-20 minutes. I still have some polenta left, but I've read about people slicing it and frying it after? I'm not sure. I'll have to do more research on that, but other than cutting that recipe in half (maybe), it's the only change I'd make. You should really give it a try.
This isn't the greatest picture, but I'd already started eating by the time I realized that this was a meal I should be taking pictures of. Mmm delicious!

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