Sometimes, Thursday’s roll around and all I really want to do is grab a friend and sneak out to a 10 a.m. movie. Eat popcorn for lunch and then come home and take a nap before the kids get home. This is merely a fantasy (aside from an occasional nap) and dinner on this particular day of the week can be easily coined, “use it up, Thursday”.
I have made a vow to stick to the weekly meal plan and no matter what, I swear off an unplanned visit to the grocery store, just because I saw something on the Internet that made my mouth water. I save that inspiration for the following week’s meal plan. Not only is this a huge time saver, but it also saves money.
It’s on this day that I clean out the vegetable bin, take inventory of what can be used for the following week, make the meal plan and lastly, type up the grocery list. Over the past year, I have made a conscious effort to create meals with the inventory on hand.
My freezer is loaded with sauces, stocks, soups, cookie doughs, frozen organic berries, homemade chicken meatballs, and all kinds of nuts. The pantry shelves are lined with beans, quinoa, millet, lentils, and gluten free flours. A pot of soup is whipped up on Thursday’s; lentil, cabbage, hearty vegetable, tomato, tortilla, roasted carrot, or french onion. This way nothing goes to waste and the leftovers are sent in a thermos to school with the kids the next day.
This past Thursday with not a lot of vegetables to spare (a few zucchini’s that I diced and sauteed with a white onion), I made a simple polenta recipe in the morning and took out a quart of bolognese from the freezer. Mixed up a vinaigrette and washed a couple of handfuls of lettuce that I picked from my garden. As the bolognese warmed up on the stove, I pan fried the polenta squares. Dinner that night cost about seven bucks.
Polenta can either be an easy main course or a delicious side. I have had creamy polenta at friends, but it’s these little squares that made me fall in love with it.
Crispy Polenta Bolognese
5 ounces | 140 grams | 1 cup yellow cornmeal, gluten free
8 ounces | 250ml | 1 cup chicken broth (preferably homemade)
8 ounces | 250ml | 1 cup whole milk
1 bay leaf
2 ounces | 56 grams | 1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
a few grinds of fresh ground pepper
• butter an 8″ x 8″ baking dish. set aside.
• in a small saucepan, combine chicken stock, milk, and bay leaf to a simmer. steep for 15 minutes, covered. discard bay leaf.
• bring liquid back to a boil and slowly add cornmeal, whisking the whole time. whisk until thickened and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.
• remove from heat and add butter. whisk until all the butter has been melted. whisk in cheeses.
• pour into prepared pan, using an off set spatula, smooth evenly.
• cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.
• cut polenta into 2″ squares.
• in a large non-stick pan, melt one tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. when butter starts to bubble, place a few squares in the pan.
• sautee until golden brown, about 4 minutes. repeat on other side.
• drain on paper towels.
• top with a scoop of bolognese and sprinkle with fresh parsley.
Susan Salzman writes The Urban Baker blog to explore her dedication to good food in the hope of adding beauty to the lives of her family and friends.
by Chef Mark Shoup