Sunday, December 2, 2007
Hip to Be Square
Have you ever made something so good out of leftovers that you're kind of disappointed with yourself for making the original dish? Because that's kind of how I feel about last night's dinner. There are a few things that I make that just always seem to have leftovers and lots of them. On the top of that list are polenta and risotto, which is why I have spent so much time obsessing over perfecting polenta cakes. I've tried making them in the past with recipes from Giada, Michael Chiarello, and that lady from Ciao Italia! to no avail. They have always come out okay, but nothing to write home about, and not really worth making again.
I've always heard that truly delicious polenta cakes are like tiny morsels of heaven, and dammit, I've been doing my best to see those pearly gates for years. I finally decided to ditch the recipes and close my eyes and imagine what my perfect polenta cake would taste, feel, and smell like. Surely I could figure out how to get the cheesy treat of my dreams. After considering everything, I decided that what I was looking for was less like a savory cake and more like a mozzarella stick. No really, stay with me. I wanted a crunchy exterior, a lovely molten interior, and a dipping sauce to bring it all together. So I figured instead of covering them in flour or dipping them in batter (like every recipe), I'd try out my favorite generic breading technique.
Let me tell you, it worked like a charm. The breading was light and crisp, just as I'd hoped. The inside however, was the opposite (also as I'd hoped). It was melted and gooey, and the flavor of the cheese had intensified--even better than I expected!. I had, in essence, made tiny mozzarella sticks. Success! And in an attempt to really clean out the fridge, I used what I had left of some homemade marinara as the dipping sauce. A meal made completely out of leftovers, and even better than expected. And on top of that, I got a fancy new camera, so once I get the hang of it, I think you'll be seeing some great (well alright, at least decent) food shots. All in all, it was a good night! Here's how to go about making your own polenta cakes:
Breaded Polenta Cakes
2 cups cooked chilled polenta
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons olive oil (regular, not extra virgin)
1. Set up a traditional breading station of three plates, the first with flour, the second with beaten egg, and the third with breadcrumbs.
2. Cut chilled polenta into 1 inch cubes and coat in flour, then egg, and lastly in breadcrumbs.
3. Heat oil in a skillet on high. Add polenta and cook until browned (this should only take about 30 seconds, you're just browning and heating) and then flip to brown on opposite side. Remove from heat and serve with your favorite dipping sauce. Enjoy!