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A Couple of My Favorite Foods

A few years ago, I was at my sister's house for  Christmas. We were  making dinner on Christmas Eve, and she handed me a recipe and said "You know how to make polenta, don't you?" I said I knew you had to work very quickly with it or it's useless. She said "Good, make this." It came out perfectly, which is such a rare thing, it's become one of my favorite dishes to make in the fall and winter.

It's a baked polenta, with butter and parmigiana-regiano.

Polenta Baked with Cheese

makes 6-8 servings

2 cups yellow cornmeal
6 cups cold water
2 tsp salt
1 cup grated parmigiana cheese
4 tbls. butter, cut into 1/2" dice

Gradually but vigorously mix water in cornmeal to remove lumps. Add salt. Bring to a simmer. Whisk, then stir with wooden spoon, as mixture thickens into a heavy mush. Continue stirring for about five minutes. (It has a tendency to stick to the  pan, so keep this as low as possible.)
Cover pan and put into larger pan with simmering water. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring often, adding water as necessary. Be careful with the simmering water. You only need a tiny bit; otherwise, it will overflow. Be sure it doesn't boil away.
Pour polenta into pie plate or other dish. Smooth out. Dot with butter and sprinkle with cheese. Let chill at least one hour, until firm and cold. Sprinkle with a little more cheese.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.

It needs 15-20 minutes to set up. I think it's best when it's still warm or just at room temperature, but you can also serve it cold. Reheating is a little tricky, because it can burn. I like to let it come to room temp before putting it in the oven. Reheat at 300-325 degrees, and check it after 10 minutes. Sometimes you just have to poke your finger into it to check the temperature.

I usually makes this for dinner parties, and it tends to disappear while my back is turned.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 40-48 cookies

These are my favorite cookies. The first time I made them, I accidentally used two tablespoons of vanilla instead of two teaspoons.I looked at the recipe a half dozen times, thinking that's a lot of vanilla, but I was sure that's what it called for. Too late, I realized my mistake. I made them anyway, and they're so good I've continued to make them with two tablespoons of vanilla.

My recipe is based on Ina Garten's Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies. I've made a few changes to it. Here's the original. And here's mine.
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbls pure vanilla extract; or 2 tbls brewed coffee; or 1 tbls each of vanilla and coffee
  • 2 extra-large eggs at room temperature (large is fine if that's what you have)
  • 2/3 cup good unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds good chocolate, coarsely chopped; or milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Cayenne pepper to taste (about two shake from the jar)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix well. Reduce mixer to lowest speed, add the cocoa and mix again. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt, and add to the dough with the mixer still on low speed, until just combined. Fold in the chocolate.

Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, using a 1 3/4-inch ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon. Dampen your hands and flatten the dough slightly. Bake for 11-14 minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I tried them once with two teaspoons of vanilla and they weren't as good. Too dry, and they got stale faster. I use real chocolate because I hate white chocolate.



alternate chocolate chocolate chip cookies

2C ap flour 1-1/2C granulated sugar 1 tsp. b.pdr. 1/2 tsp. b. soda 1/4 tsp salt 2 eggs 1 tsp. pure vanilla ext. 1/2C butter 2-1/2 oz. baking chocolate 1/2C sour cream 1 12 oz. pkg semi-sweet choc. chips 1C chopped walnuts Combine flour, powder, soda, &salt whisk and set aside. Melt butter & baking choc. over low heat. Mix sugar, eggs and vanilla in mixer. Add butter mixture, blend in flour and sour cream alternately. Stir in chips and nuts. drop dough by rounded tsp. on ungreased sheet @ 2" centers. bake 10-12 @ 375F. yield 5 doz. from St. Louis Post Dispatch reader