Monday, January 21, 2008

The Case of the Watery Polenta

So I decided to make another recipe from Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook this weekend - the New Mexican Spice Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon-Ancho Sauce. In the restaurant, this is served with a sweet potato tamale. Lovely, but I wasn't going through the rigamarole of making tamales, plus Mr Minx doesn't like sweet potatoes. Instead, I decided on some cheesy polenta and since we had leeks in the fridge, I'd braise them for a side dish.

I did have to make some substitutions in the pork recipe, as I didn't have the wide variety of dried chiles called for, nor did I have apple juice concentrate for the sauce. That all turned out perfectly well, however, and some of the pork is going into sandwiches for tonight's dinner.

The polenta, on the other hand, was fairly disastrous. The recipe I use calls for 3 cups water or stock plus one cup water mixed with one cup cornmeal. I had a scant cup of cornmeal left, so I used 1 cup of stock and 1 1/2 cups of water, mixed with equal parts cornmeal and water. I started out pretty good, with the water evaporating nicely and the cornmeal granules becoming tender and plump. I usually grow weary of stirring and watching my stove getting covered with blops of hot cornmeal as it flies out of the pot, so I turned the heat off and put the lid on, allowing it to cook the rest of the way on its own. I also added about a cup of corn kernels at this point.

When I started cooking the pork, I turned the heat on under the now nicely thickened polenta and stirred in a couple of ounces of cheddar cheese. Once the cheese was melted, I turned the heat down as far as it would go and replaced the lid. With the pork finished and the leeks out of the oven, I decided to give the polenta one last stir...and found a pot of cornmeal soup with corn kernels for texture! The once thick porridge was now watery! What on earth happened - can anyone tell me? I usually add cheese to my polenta near the end, and this has never happened before.

No pics on this post - it's just too ugly. The polenta flooded the plates, and the melted leeks, although delicious, were pretty ugly, especially with a pool of yellow underneath. I'm just glad it all tasted better than it looked!