Chat Leftovers: Polenta, Baked Apple Woes, Winning Chili
Connecticut: Hi Kim, I have a question about polenta. Is there a way to keep it from setting up so quickly? I add it slowly while whisking, but as soon as I stop, it tightens up. And as soon as it starts to get thick, it starts bubbling like lava even though I turned the heat down. What gives?
Connecticut, my dear, I tried my hand at polenta earlier this year, and here’s what helped me:
Drop cornmeal into pot a handful at a time, "like rain," stirring or whisking constantly and making sure water continues to boil. When all of cornmeal is incorporated, about five minutes -- continue stirring but lower heat as cornmeal mass thickens. It will soon become fairly dense and taken on volcanic qualities as it erupts periodically. Lower heat if necessary to keep eruptions at a minimum and stir cornmeal mass regularly so all of it is exposed to the heat.
The rain imagery really does work, and it helped me make a lump-free pot of polenta. And remember, keep stirring even after you’ve added all the cornmeal! You’ll want to be diligent until the polenta starts to thicken, then you can give your arms a break. The recipe details, in entirety, are linked above. Next time, remember to breathe and think of nothing but the cornmeal!
Exploding baked apple: I made baked apples on Sunday night. Or, to be accurate, I tried to. I ended up with exploded baked apples that made a delicious thick applesauce. We enjoyed it.
If, however, I want to return to the idea of baked apples that stay intact, what do I do? I am not sure if this was the type of apple I tried (at the suggestion of the grower) or if it was the method. I loosely followed a Good Housekeeping cookbook recommendation.
A bit of cider in the 8x8 glass pan. Cut off a "hat" from the apple, cored the inside without cutting all the way through the bottom. Sprinkled with a tablespoon or so of brandy, and a relatively generous amount of cinnamon sugar. Put the hat back on. Baked, covered in foil, 1 hour at 350 as recommended.
If you don't have a suggestion for baked apples, what about sauteed slices? Looking for something appley and fall-y but not heavy (in calories or richness).
Hard to tell what you mean by “a bit of cider,” but going forward, I’d translate that into one cup of liquid to create a shallow wading pool for the fruit. I’m also thinking that next time, leave that “hat” off during baking -- it may have been the culprit, cutting off air flow and causing the apples to explode.
Here’s a tempting idea from Molly O’Neill’s “A Well-Seasoned Appetite”: Make a ginger syrup (1/2 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger) in a saucepan; bring up to a boil, then reduce and simmer for five minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes, and then strain through fine-mesh sieve. Slice apples, place onto a buttered baking sheet and drizzle with ¼ cup of the ginger syrup and roast at 400 degrees, until tender, about 20 minutes.
Chili Contests: It's that time of the year that the workplace competitive spirits come out. It is the chili contests at work. What can I do to step it up in my chili and take the big prize but most important braggin' rights?
Beef or bean chili, darlin’?
I’m afraid I’m fresh out of beef chili ideas, but that’s what the readers are here for. They’ll help you out in no time..
A few years ago, I tinkered with a turkey chili made with pinto or white beans. I zipped this one up with cocoa powder, cinnamon, a chipotle chile in adobo sauce and plenty of cumin. I especially like bean chili with cocoa powder; it adds a layer of flavor complexity and it plays well with the chili powder and all the other hot stuff. But this is just one chili recipe, and I must confess it was made on the fly at the last minute. I’d love to hear your tips for a winning chili -- beef, bean or anything inbetween. The front burner is all yours.
One last thing: For those who expressed interest in gluten-free flour, I got the 411 from Catonsville, Md. baker Jules Shepard, who's working with a new packager. She reports that the flour is now ready for online ordering at Nearly Normal Kitchen and promises to update me when flour is available on D.C. area store shelves.
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