Category Archives: polenta

Earthy Delight

When I was younger I always wondered what being an adult in my 20s would be like. 12-year-old me thought that by the time I turned 22 I’d have my shit together (still working on it), be engaged (nowhere close to that), and be enjoying life in New York City (at least she got that part right). Another thing past-me imagined was hosting large dinner parties for friends, but not in the way they’ve occurred in the last few months. I can tell you now, Little Mare never imagined my eclectic group of friends and I making this earthy menu of Sage Veal Chops, Wild Mushroom Fricassee Over Polenta, and Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese, Pears, and Apricot Vinaigrette. Let’s get cooking!

Unlike most of my EVOO adventures, this one was thrown together pretty much at the last minute — I’m not complaining though, random plans tend to produce the best memories. Around mid-day, Mikella and I walked up to Whole Foods on 59th Street. We decided to bypass Trader Joe’s because they don’t carry veal, and we were in the mood for a one-and-done shopping trip.

Once we arrived at Whole Foods, Kell and I split up — she scoured the produce section, while I made my way to the deli counter. I needed four veal chops for tonight, and there was quite a selection. I chose four, and was very happy…until I saw the price tag. $66 for four veal rib chops!! I found Mikella and bitched a bit, then finally decided to give the rib chops back in exchange for loin chops for 2 reasons: 1. a majority of the weight from the rib chop was the huge bone still attached — I was not about to pay for mostly bone, and 2. the loin chops were a little less expensive. I was worried the deli guy wouldn’t exchange, but since I was there 5 minutes prior it was all good. The loin chops ended up being $58, but at least I saved $8.

Remember how we said we wanted a one-stop shopping trip? Well that didn’t happen. We weren’t able to find quick-cooking polenta — there’s always that one obscure ingredient. On our walk back home we stopped at good old Amish Market. We looked through their isle of cornmeal, and for a moment I thought we had struck out again, but Kell spotted instant polenta on the very top shelf! We may have looked a little crazy rejoicing over polenta, but it was a big deal, okay?

A few hours later we walked over to 312 with all the ingredients and my camera. Before we started to cook, we filmed a wine review for my youtube channel…on an empty stomach. We only had four cans of wine spritzers to try, but by the time the tasting was over, Nico, Mikella, and I were a tiny bit tipsy. Is it safe to cook while intoxicated? Welp, it’s nothing we haven’t done before.

Once Christy and Pearce got home from Coney Island, we migrated to their apartment to pull this meal together. Last time there were only two of us (Kell and I) cooking, but this time there were 5 people helping out in this unfurnished apartment with a cramped kitchen. I divvied up responsibilities — Nico (despite his objections) chopped mushrooms with Mikella. I put Mikella in charge of the mushroom fricassee, while I set to work on seasoning the veal chops…on the floor. I wasn’t kidding when I said this apartment was unfurnished. Not to worry though — the place was spotless because Christy swiffers the whole apartment about 3 times a day.

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I seasoned the chops with salt and pepper, then rubbed sage leaves into the meat. I realized I needed more sage, and didn’t want to get up so I asked Pearce to chop bit more..his response, with a beer in hand was, “the green stuff?” Yep, the green stuff.

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Once the veal was cooking on the stove, I made the apricot vinaigrette for the salad while Madison tore the lettuce and tossed it with the arugula, pear, and blue cheese…on the floor. When you picture a bunch of 20-somethings cooking together, I’m sure cooking on the floor is the last thing you would picture. Let me paint the whole picture though: it was drunk cooking on the floor while dancing to “Proud Mary.” Yep, that’s my friend group and I.

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Nico and I had an intense dance off to “Proud Mary” while everything simmered. Once the battle was over, it was time to eat.

We carried all of the dishes up to the roof, piled our plates, then finally it was time for the moment of truth. 3…2…1….WOW. I’m not just saying wow because I was slightly tipsy. This food was W-O-W worthy. The veal chops were cooked to perfection — tender & juicy, aromatic from the sage, and topped with a white wine sauce. This was next level melt in your mouth. Simply fabulous. The mushroom fricassee with polenta was a a flavorful explosion. It always amazes me how mushrooms have such a meaty flavor. This dish was creamy, savory, and completely mouthwatering. The salad may have been simple, but the flavors meshed so well and danced across our palates. I’m not exaggerating when I say everyone was in awe over this meal.

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Now time for the ratings. The Sage Veal Chops receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I am so glad I spent $58 on this meat — it was impeccable. I can barely put into words how incredible the veal was, but I’ll put it this way. I made sure to get every last morsel off the bone. Exquisite. The Wild Mushroom Fricassee Over Polenta receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Rachael Ray is a master at mushrooms, and this fricassee and polenta was a total crowd pleaser. Fricassee is usually a meat dish, but who needs a meat version when you have mushrooms this good? Unbelievable. Finally, the Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese, Pears, and Apricot Vinaigrette receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I was a little skeptical about this salad since I’m not a fan of blue cheese, but this mix of flavors were completely complementary of each other, and made for one of the best salads I ever had. Extraordinary. Everyone unanimously agreed on all these ratings, which hasn’t happened in a long time. Way to go Rachael Ray!

I learned a few lessons today. 1. Tipsy cooking is a TON of fun. I’d encourage you all to try it but I don’t want to be held liable if you mistakenly chop off a finger. 2. Cooking on the floor is something everyone should do at least once in their life (as long as the floor is clean.) and 3. These dinner parties are a hell of a lot better than the ones 12-year-old Mary ever imagined. Goofy times with great company make for memories I will cherish forever. My life may not be how I envisioned it 10 years ago, but I’m glad it’s not — it’s impossible to imagine a life as amazing as this.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

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Snack Attack Party

When I was younger, I always pictured myself throwing fabulous dinner parties once I was married. The kind of dinner parties with hors-d’oeuvres followed by a mouth-watering feast that the guests would rave about for weeks — all made by moi. While those dinner parties are between 12-15 years away still, I see no harm in practicing for them now…which is exactly what this menu was made for. Tonight we have Grilled Polenta Crackers with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa, Lavash Pizzas with Smoked Cheese and Ham, and Rachael’s Chimichurri Chicken Bites. Let’s get cooking!

I headed out to Trader Joe’s in the afternoon after a leisurely morning of reading. The items I had to pick up were pretty basic, and the line wasn’t unbearable for a weekend afternoon. I really prayed that I wouldn’t have to go to Fairway, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find fresh oregano or lavash bread at good ol’ TJs. Luckily, it was a quick skip through Fairway to get the two items I needed.

I headed home content that I bought everything I needed, and that my friends were bringing over the last few ingredients…or so I thought. We were supposed to cook at my friend Christy’s apartment, but she called me as I was about to head over saying she was ill, aka still hungover. Once again drinking got the best of one of my friends. Since we lost Christy, I quickly tidied up to cook at my place. It was the first time doing evoo at my apartment since I moved, so it needed to look nice and neat.

Instead of having Taylor and Krystyna pick up the items Christy was supposed to bring, I ran over to Food Emporium…mainly because I knew the ingredients would be difficult to find, and I didn’t want to wait too long to start cooking.

I know I have said in the past how much I dislike Food Emporium, but seriously DON’T SHOP THERE!! I only picked up a jar of roasted red peppers, a jar of kalamata olives, an itty-bitty bottle of evoo, and paper towels and my total was $25. Twenty-five freaking dollars for four items. I almost fainted at the price. The amount of money I spend for evoo really gets to me sometimes.

I hurried home to wait for Krystyna and Taylor, but they got held up at the same Food Emporium! They were in the check out when the cashier asked another employee to price check theIR thyme. She disappeared and still hadn’t returned 10 minutes later. Everyone was getting antsy and confused — it turned out this girl decided to go on her break instead of price check. Food Emporium: get your shit together!!

After what felt like an eternity, my friends showed up and we got down to business. While I chopped some ingredients, I assigned both Taylor and Krystyna to char some jalapeños over the stovetop flame. I gave them wooden skewers without thinking…and they caught on fire multiple times. Luckily, both girls were quick enough to react and blow them out every time.

Once the jalapeños were blackened, we chopped them and threw the peppers in the food processor along with paprika, parsley, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, onion, and garlic to make the marinade for the chicken. We plopped the chicken into the marinade with some evoo, and Krystyna stirred for about 10 minutes to make sure everything was well covered.

While Krystyna manned the chicken, Taylor and I worked as a team to clean the food processor for the Roasted Red Pepper Salsa. I made the salsa and grilled the polenta while she made the lavash pizzas — we had some great teamwork going on. Since the pizzas only took about 8 minutes to make, Taylor also grilled the chicken.

Things were finally coming together: Krystyna topped each polenta “cracker” with salsa, and I cut up the pizzas. Together we made a lovely spread on my dining room table, and a few minutes later the chicken was ready, too.

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Before we took the first bite we popped open a bottle of wine, and poured ourselves some into red solo cups, ya know, cause we’re classy. We then piled our plates with each little bite-sized delight.

Finally, it was time for the moment of truth. 3..2..1… These little bites had some of the biggest flavors. I had to stop myself from eating so fast. I first tried the polenta and salsa, and man, there were so many textures and aromas going on at once, I simply could not understand how all of it was happening in one little bite. Next, I tried the pizzas, and though they were a little soggy from the fresh mozzarella, they were still delicious…I think I ate 4 squares in under a minute. I tried the chicken last, and you know what they say: always save the best for last. The sauce on these chicken bites was unlike anything I had ever had before. All of the herbs surprisingly blended together beautifully and the chicken itself was extremely juicy. We all stuffed ourselves full from these tiny bites, but it was so worth it.

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Now time for the ratings. The Grilled Polenta Crackers with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Though this was delicious and flavorful, the more we ate, the more olive-y the salsa became. None of us are huge olive fans, so that is why this dish is one heart shy of 5. Also, this is a snack that should be eaten before it gets cold — the polenta started to get a bit soggy from the salsa which wasn’t the best. The Lavash Pizzas with Smoked Cheese and Ham receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. These pizzas took my tastebuds back to Italy — it reminded me of their light pizza pies in bite-size form. It doesn’t get better than the simplicity of fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and arugula…plus any pizza is good pizza. Finally, Rachael’s Chimichurri Chicken Bites receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This chicken was the juiciest I have had in months, and I’m pretty sure we have the sauce to thank for that. Seriously, this was one of the best sauces EVER. I think I may have to incorporate it into more of my meals — which is saying a lot since I rarely make any dish twice. These little bites made huge lasting impressions on all of us.

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Little bites made by 3 girls with big personalities. I know I said at the beginning of this post that I want to wow all my neighbors and friends with hors-d’oeuvres like these one day, but if I make snack bites like these in the future, I’ll end up eating them all before anyone arrives…sorry in advance future dinner guests!!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus