Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Waffle Iron Cooking: Polenta

I use my waffle iron more than any other appliance in my kitchen ... well, besides my coffee maker that is.  And no, not because I make a lot of waffles.  Or, at least, not traditional waffles.  I use it to reheat just about everything, rather than a microwave or a oven.  You can read about all my ridiculous waffling adventures from my master post.

Most of the time, I use the waffle iron to reheat leftovers, very rarely do I use it to actually cook something in its original form.  I'm not sure where today's experiment falls though, I wasn't just reheating leftovers, but I also wasn't cooking exactly ... I'll call it *almost* cooking, more advanced than simply reheating leftovers.
Block of Polenta -> Polenta Waffle with Ratatouille.
My adventure started because I had leftover ratatouille, and I wanted to do something interesting with it.  I could have served it over pasta, or cracked an egg in it, or served it with some crusty bread, all standard ways of serving ratatouille.  The idea of serving it over creamy polenta came to mind, but, I didn't have any creamy polenta just hanging around, nor the desire to make any.

But what I did have was a block of shelf-stable pre-made polenta in my pantry.  I knew I could work with that.  That, and my waffle iron, of course.

My creation was a success, a lovely polenta waffle, topped with ratatouille!
Block of Valsugana Polenta.
I started with a block of Valsugana Polenta, pre-made, pre-cooked, shelf-stable polenta.

It came as a big solid block in a plastic package like tofu.  It seemed perhaps like a step up from tube polenta, but, barely.  It was pretty gross and slimy, and really not appealing.

The package claims this is Italy's #1 polenta, but, it sure didn't have anything going for it straight out of the package.
Slices of Polenta in the Waffle Iron.
Since it is pre-cooked all you need to do is slice and heat however you want.  They recommend cutting into triangles and grilling or pan-frying.  I of course had other ideas.

I sliced the block lengthwise to form large nasty blocks of polenta.  Into the waffle iron they went.  The size was great, it fit into the iron easily, and was a good size serving.  I was able to cut 3 slices from the block.

Since the polenta was so firm, I had to press down hard on the waffle iron to get into the solid mass of polenta, but once it warmed up a bit, it was fairly easy.
Polenta Waffle.
The polenta took longer to cook than I expected, and at first, it didn't seem like it was going to crisp up.  I raised the temperature from 350° to 400° and that helped.  It still never got an amazing crust on it, but, it did get a little bit crisp.

The waffle came out decent enough.  The ridiculous firm solid mass worked well for this, and it held together great.  It wasn't as magical as when I waffled cheesy grits, likely because plain polenta doesn't have cheese or other fats to crisp it up.

I would have been bored with it at this stage, far too plain.  But I had my toppings at the ready.
Polenta Waffle Topped with Ratatouille.
I topped each polenta waffle with ratatouille, the thing that inspired this whole adventure in the first place.  It soaked into the waffle, was super flavorful, and made the dish.  Without it, it would have been boring, but with it, I deem this success.
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