In which polenta turns out to be cornmeal

pork tenderloin with swiss chard and polenta

mmmm....pork.....

mmmm….pork…..

polenta wedges with asparagus and mushrooms

Yes, grill your polenta!

Yes, grill your polenta!

Right off the bat, let me say that these two dishes were magnificent.  And for so few calories.  I said in December that I was anxiously awaiting some healthier fare, and this issue has been great.  368 calories for the pork tenderloin and a scant 261 for the wedges.  Well, mine was probably a bit more than that.  I have toddler, so I have whole milk in the house.  But that’s it.  The broth and pork and chard all come together to make something savory that tastes much more rich than it is.  Then the polenta just makes it so gooey.  It’s really comfort food.

A note about the polenta.  Did you know that polenta is yellow cornmeal?  I think I hear some chuckling coming through the tubes, and I think I deserve that.  I had always bought boxes or bags of “polenta” or “quick cooking polenta.”  This recipe calls for quick cooking polenta.  I reached into the pantry and discovered that I had maybe a 1/4 cup of polenta.  Gasp!  What to do?  D offered to go to the store.  I started googling how to make polenta thinking that someone had a neat trick.  Alton Brown had a recipe…for polenta.  It used yellow cornmeal.  At that point, I was slapping my forehead.  I got out my canister of yellow cornmeal and looked in.  Yeah, that looked a lot like polenta.  My polenta was always just ground finer than that.  Kind of like the difference between instant oatmeal and old-fashioned oatmeal.  Not since I found out that ponies were not baby horses have I felt quite so dense.  Another note: this recipe is not a good candidate for quick-cooking polenta.  Quick-cooking polenta comes together almost instantly.  I’ve never had to stir it for more than a minute before it seized into a mass.  This recipe has to cooking the polenta for 25 minutes.  Try that with quick-cooking polenta and you’re going to be chipping that stuff off of the bottom of the pot with a pick axe.  So use cornmeal!  Tada!

The polenta wedges are a great way to use up the leftovers.  Broiling the wedges seemed kinda weird.  Here I was taking blobs of polenta and grilling them(?)  To accomplish what, exactly?  To accomplish a wonderful crispy crust and a gooey interior, that’s what.  Sold?  Me too.  As for the rest of the recipe, the note about only 2T of heavy cream making the whole dish taste luxurious made me roll my eyes, but they were right!  It really did.  Also, I used button mushrooms instead of cremini because of cheapness, and it was delicious.  Use whatever mushrooms you like.

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Slice potato, burn potato

Apricot-Stuffed Pork with Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

all's well...

all’s well…

This is an interesting recipe.  I’ll start with the pork.  The stuffing itself was easy to make.  I used red onion instead of shallot.  I know B is a huge shallot fan, but I’m not sure I’ve bought more than maybe three shallots in my life.  They don’t carry them very regularly at my grocery store (the one besides Aldi…).  Plus, for a cooked recipe like this, the red onion does a really good shallot impression.  The directions say to cut a slit in the pork loin almost all the way through.  Well, if you cut all the way through the loin on accident like I did, you can adjust and make a shorter, shallower cut right next to the mistake cut and use that newly cut piece to cover the gap.  It seemed worthwhile because I thought the sticky apricot jam would ooze out and burn.

It doesn't hold together very well

It doesn’t hold together very well

Speaking of burning…  The potatoes definitely burned.  You cook them for a while on the sheet with the brussels sprouts before you nestle the pork loin on there.  Trouble is, when I opened the oven to add the pork loin, I’d say those potatoes and sprouts were done.  Gulp.  I soldiered forth and cooked them some more with the pork loin, but I stirred them around a little to try and avoid burning.  As luck would have it, the pork loin needed more time to cook fully than what the recipe said.  By the time it was done, the brussels sprouts were really, really roasted and just on the edge of burning and about 60% of the potatoes were burned to the pan.  Here’s my question: why not chunks instead of thin slices?  What a mess.  If I made this again, I would either skip the potatoes or cut them into chunks and do the preroasting for 1/2 the amount of time before adding the pork loin to the pan.

We lost a lot of good potatoes in this battle

We lost a lot of good potatoes in this battle

On a more positive note, I ground up the pork and stuffing in the food processor and gave it to J with a little applesauce to moisten it and it was his favorite meal of the week!  I tried a bite and yeah, I would eat that!