a bit o' dinner

Trust me.

it's made from corn.

But bookmark it, and come back to it in the middle of winter. Because this may have been totally inappropriate for a steamy summer afternoon, but it’s a great dish that deserves to have its day. Don’t punish the dish for my stupidity. (And if you live in the opposite hemisphere, have at it!)

The meal: polenta layered with ricotta and gorgonzola and leftover red onion marmalade or, as I like to call them when I’m channeling my inner Food Network Personality, polenta napoleons.

When I write it out, it sounds completely wrong and makes me wonder why I thought this would be a good idea in the first place. And it was so wrong, but also very right.


I threw together a potful of polenta earlier in the afternoon and turned it into an oiled pan to set up. I mean, I poured it into a pan, I didn’t actually turn it into a pan.


While it was setting, I took a nap and watched the “scintillating attacks” on today’s stage of the Tour de France. As strange as it sounds to describe men in tight shorts pedaling very slowly up a mountainside as “scintillating,” I was riveted. Although not so riveted that I couldn’t take a nap, so I guess even I have limits.


When the stage was over, I returned to the kitchen and found my polenta nice and firm. I turned it out onto a cutting board and cut it into equal squares. Since there would only be two of us eating, I picked out four photogenic squares and packed the others away in parchment paper in the fridge to become another inappropriate meal later in the week.


Next: the frying. While the oil heated, I mixed together my napoleon filling, ricotta with a hit of crumbly gorgonzola. I also reheated the leftover red onion marmalade from Thursday, which made the house smell delicious all over again and made me wonder why I didn’t make a double batch while I was at it.

Hey you: when you do this, make a double batch. You’ll thank me later.

I also whisked together my new favorite salad dressing, white balsamic and olive oil emulsified with a little dijon mustard, and tossed in some greens. The white balsamic is so light and sweet that you don’t need as much oil to balance it out as you do with other types of vinegar, so you get something that tastes great and you get to feel virtuous that you’re being healthier. If you care about that sort of thing, which I’m told many people do.

fry 'er up

The polenta squares went into the hot oil and OH MY GOD but they spit like nobody’s business. I suppose this is why cooks wear aprons, because this shirt is shot.

I drained the squares on some paper towels and let them cool off for a few minutes so they wouldn’t instantly liquidify the cheeses, then stacked them up with the ricotta and onions. A final crumble of gorgonzola and a heap of greens, and it’s time to ring the dinner bell.

polenta napoleons

I made it through all the salad and about two-thirds of the polenta napoleons before I had to call it a day, but like I said, flavor had nothing to do with my failure to make it all the way through. The napoleons were great – the polenta was crisp on the outside, a lovely contrast with the creaminess of the cheeses. The sweetness of the wine-soaked onions and the insistent pop of the gogonzola crumbles played off one another, and the soft corn flavor of the polenta bound everything together perfectly.

Brian had no issues with the weather-inappropriateness of this dinner, so if you live with someone who’s part goat and will eat anything, feel free to go ahead and make it on the hottest day of the year. If you don’t, make a mental note come the middle of February – you’re gonna want this.