crispy polenta cakes over tomato bizness

Good news. Bad news.

I almost impulse bought a weeklong culinary vacation in Tuscany.

I think that the only downside of the last twenty minutes is that I didn't buy it. I wasn't the least bit concerned with: going alone, being with middle-aged people, or having to be on other peoples schedules.

The only thing that really stopped me was that I wasn't sure where this particular package stood "quality wise". So, if you know anything about taking culinary vacations in Tuscany.... let me know.

Three great things about Tuscany:
(1) I think Tuscany would be about a million times warmer than Boston
(2) They have those tall skinny trees.
(3) I'd get to pretend like I was in one of my favorite movies of all time ... "Under the Tuscan Sun"

Mostly just #3.

But it is seriously cold here. So tonight I made something warm.

I introduce you to Baked Polenta Cakes with amazing tomato bizness.

Admittedly this is a little complicated for a week night. But, to be clear I actually made the cakes on a Saturday night. (Yep, I'm cool). So I really only made the amazing tomato bizness (use the 'z') tonight. Either way, you can do it all at once or whatever floats your boat.

How it all comes together? Make your cakes. Make your tomato bizness. Put the cakes on the bizness. Devour while nestled in quilts yelling at Wheel of Fortune.

Polenta Cakes
(Step 1) In a large saucepan, bring the water to boil, then whisk in the cornmeal in a slow stream to prevent any lumps. Add the salt, turn the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cornmeal is soft and the polenta is quite firm and pulling away from the sides of the pot (if the cornmeal is not yet soft, add water as necessary). Add the cheese and parsley, stir well to combine.
(Step 2) Then pour the polenta onto a baking sheet to cool and set up. FYI, polenta should be about 1/2 inch thick.
(Step 3) Once the polenta is cooled and firm, cut it into desired size and shape. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a small bowl and spread the breadcrumbs on a plate. Dip each polenta cake in the egg mixture, then the breadcrumbs.
(Step 4) You can either drop these babes in a skillet - quick option - or bake them ... slow option. Skillet? Heat the olive oil over high heat. Carefully add the breaded cakes, cooking in batches to avoid crowding the pan. Cook until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes, then flip carefully to cook the other side. Oven? Bake at 400 F for about 20 minutes or until the bread crumbs are toasted. 
Tomato Bizness
(Step 1) In a medium heat skillet, add your onion and garlic. Saute these babes until they are a softened.

(Step 2) Add in the canned tomatoes. I used the other half of the 28 oz diced San Marzano tomatoes that I had used for the baked cod. Essentially you need 7 oz per person ... so do the math.

(Step 3) Then add in 1 tablespoon of wochester sauce and 1 cup of beef stock. I chose beef stock because I wanted a little meaty flavor and I didn't have any bacon (shocker). You can use whatever stock you want really.

(Step 4) In an effort to get a slightly more smooth consistency than chunky died tomatoes, you want to blend / food processer / immersion blend this mixture just a bit. If you use the blender or the food processer route, just remove half of the mixture to either of these methods. Pulse a few times and return to the pan. I went with the immersion blender and it worked.

(Step 5) Set the skillet to medium - high heat and pretty much let the mixture boil down to the consistency you like. I like mine to be of a heavy paste. This was about 10-20 minutes. 

Cakes based on this recipe and Tomato bizness based on this recipe

Shopping List
Polenta Cakes (for 3-4 people)
3 cups water
1 cups cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cups grated parmesan
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 eggs
1/8 cup milk
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
Olive oil, for frying

Tomato Bizness (for 2-3 people)
14 oz diced tomatoes
1 T worchester sauce
1/2 diced medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 cup beef stock

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