Cooking for Clara

Broiled Polenta Cakes

By • February 18, 2014 • 13 Comments

Merrill's daughter Clara has quite the appetite -- and it's all Merrill can do to keep up. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, she steps into the fray.

Today: Crisp little nuggets made from leftover polenta.

This week, ladies and gentlemen, we'll be talking yet again about The Mush Factor. I could probably write about this topic for every single column -- it's the greatest challenge I've faced since we started feeding Clara solid food a year and a half ago.

I can't think of a single mushy thing Clara will eat: no oatmeal, no mashed potatoes, no overripe bananas, none of it.

More: If you've never made your oatmeal with miso, you should.

The problem is that I love mushy things. Nothing makes me happier than a cozy bowl of risotto or cheesy grits. I crave nursery food. (Even the name implies that Clara should like it!) But she doesn't, and my husband doesn't either. So I reserve these comfort foods for nights when I'm home alone for dinner and not indulging my other solitary pleasure, cheese and crackers. Try to contain your envy -- I know my evenings alone are pretty exotic.

Lately I've been lusting after polenta, perhaps because I've run across this recipe a few times. So for a solo dinner one night, I made a pot of it, enriched with a little mascarpone and some grated Parmesan. Because why make just a little polenta when you can make a lot? It'll be great as leftovers for lunch all week, I told myself, even if no one else but me will eat it.

Then it occurred to me that I might be able to turn that leftover polenta into something Clara wouldn't turn up her nose at. The next night, I brushed cubes of the chilled polenta with olive oil and broiled them until they were crispy little nuggets. She took one in each hand. She looked at them, and then at me. She took a cautious nibble of one of the cubes.

"Crackers!"

Did I correct her? No, I did not.

Broiled Polenta Cakes

Serves 8

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups polenta (yellow cornmeal)
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom 

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Tags: cooking for kids, weeknight cooking

Comments (13)

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about 1 month ago NakedBeet

Genius! I have a picky toddler and while he will eat polenta with sour cream and salty cheese, I love this variation for the next night.

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5 months ago Danny

Merrill, this is genius. Just the other night I made polenta with Dom's mother's "sauce" and meatballs, but couldn't get the polenta to crisp up on the stovetop. But broiling! Why didn't I think of broiling? Totally putting this on the must-try list. And those photos of Clara are delicious as well.

Merrill

5 months ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Danny, so great to hear from you. Hope all's well, and that you like the polenta nuggets! XX

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5 months ago TheFarmGirlCooks

You can also cut the polenta into 'fries' for dipping in marinara. Excellent recipe plus beautiful little lady :)

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5 months ago Mama D

This sounds wonderful...I too love mushy things and crispy fried things.your trasformation was wonderful

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5 months ago Kate Higs

The food sounds great, but the photos of your daughter are true works of art.

Merrill

5 months ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Thank you so much.

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5 months ago Paula Zevin

If you don't have a broiler (or if your's is out of commission), just throw these tasty bites into your trusted pan and brown them on the stove. You can also grill tehm on your panini press (open) or on your grill (cut them into somewhat larger flat pieces).

Merrill

5 months ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Just make sure to use oil, or a non-stick surface!

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5 months ago Paula Zevin

That's right, forgot all about it.

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5 months ago Paula Zevin

... And check the spelling: it's "them" of course!

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5 months ago Gail Viechnicki

Great idea! Trying this next time I make polenta for myself (noone at my house likes it either) and have leftovers...

Junechamp

5 months ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Brilliant!