Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cornmeal not just for cornbread!

Blog-checking lines: Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

Well here it is my first Daring Cooks Blog!!! I though long and hard about joining daring cooks, wondering would I actually be able to participate in the challenges that the hosts were presenting. With encouragement from my husband and my mom I realized that of course I could do it, I may have successes and I may have disasters, but it would be fun and challenging none the less. So here it is. My very first blog. The challenge this month was cornmeal. For me cornmeal has been ever present in our home, from cornbread to hush puppies and then coating for fish; however that was really the extent of my experience with it so I was interested to try a few things I had not done yet.

My first thought was to give polenta a try and OMG was I glad I did. The polenta recipe I found was from Epicurious, their recipe is skillet polenta with tomatoes and Gorgonzola, I modified it a bit and doctored my recipe a lot. I did follow the base recipe for the polenta however I did not add the fresh basil as I did not purchase it at the store, and instead of Gorgonzola I used a blue cheese that I picked up and actually stirred it in the polenta with some Parmesan and two tablespoons of butter at the end. It was fantastic, the best thing I though initially to come out of this experience. To go with the polenta I prepared some chicken sausage with tomatoes and onions which we spooned over the polenta. It was all so yummy, it was all we could do to not eat the pan of polenta that night!

Creamy blue cheese polenta with sausage tomatoes and onion.

The photo just does not do it justice, and I realize I did not take pictures of the process which is disappointing I must try to do better next time. I did have to ask Ashley to assist some while cooking as I put the sausage and tomatoes on at the same time as the polenta because I wanted both done together. I will certainly be doing this again in the very near future.

My second attempt at the cornmeal challenge was a dessert; which I can report I failed at. I attempted to make one of the desserts that was suggested in the challenge; Poudine MaisI tried and that is the most important part of this whole challenge. I was so excited, I was trying something new again, and after the polenta success I thought there really is no way I can mess this up. Boy was I wrong! So the things I realized after the fact was that I did not cook the cornmeal long enough. I was not able to find the sultans that the recipe called for so I added yellow raisins. I also felt like the dessert was not sweet enough. Ashley and I talked about this and as this is a dessert not made for American tastes we figured that it may be a less sweet dessert; which was confirmed once I posted my failure to The Daring Kitchen's forums. Regardless I tried it, and here is an actual photo of my failure.

Photos of the process.
Finished product, you can't really see it well in the photo but liquid gathered on the edge of the pudding which makes me think I should have cooked it longer; also I did not top with extra coconut because Ashley does not care for it.

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in the final outcome of the pudding, but I was determined to not end my first challenge on a sour note! My final attempt at the challenge was to try something not only that I had never made, but in all of my years in South Texas and trips to Mexico that I had never eaten! I wanted to make Gorditas, and am I glad that I gave them an attempt. The recipe I used and modified came from a little book I picked up while we were in Florida and at Epcot in the World Showcase Mexico attraction; Recetas De Viejo Mexico (Recipes of Old Mexico). I ended up modifying it a bit as after following the directions I realized I needed more liquid and some lard or butter, so here is the full recipe I used with my modifications in parentheses.


2cups of masa harina
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup (plus two tablespoons) water
(2 tablespoons of unsalted butter)

Mix the ingredients to form a stiff dough (added the extra water and butter when I felt the dough was not coming together well.) Pinch off small portions of dough and form 2-inch balls. Flatten to form a patty about 3 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick (mine were a bit bigger, I went with 3 inch balls and about 4.5 inch wide patties.) Fry in hot oil until golden brown, turn to cook on both sides (I tried to use as little oil as possible in this situation). Drain on paper towels. Make a slit through the middle, open slightly and stuff with filling of choice.

We filled ours with a shredded chicken mix I can pick up at the local grocery store so I cheated a bit here, but I figured I was making Gorditas at home after working all night the night before, this was the best I could do. Regardless of using premade chicken, they were DELICIOUS!!!! We topped them off with lettuce, tomato, and cheese and had them with some refried beans and sliced avocado. We did realize it is important to have a bit of sauce as the gordita shells can be a bit dry, but that was easily remedied and they were so good. Here are some photos of the process.

The prep, cooking, and before stuffed photos.

These were so yummy, and they reheated very well a few days later!

In all I would say that my first Daring Cooks Challenge was a success. I loved the experience of trying to make new things, and eating new things. Ashley enjoyed the experiment as well. I might even continue in my attempts at the cornmeal pudding as it was an interesting concept. I have done some research, and looks like there are many cultures that have a cornmeal pudding of sorts. Anyway, I look forward to the next challenge and hope to have as many delicious results as I did this time around! Enjoy your kitchen a bit more, I know I am enjoying mine! Thanks for reading. 


  1. you have indeed worked hard for this. :) Fabulous entries

  2. Hi Kim, that looks good, and you managed to make three different things for your first challenge, wow, I'm impressed. Your polenta sounds a bit like mine, which was also with blue cheese. Sounds great with the tomato sauce, I can imagine it worked well!

  3. 2 greats out of 3, that's a success. Bravo ! The gorditas seems fun. I will try them.

  4. Well done on your first challenge and taking a not so successful recipe in stride! Can't wait to see what you do next month.

    1. Great job on the challenge. Those Gorditas sound like something I'd like to try, maybe stuffed with pulled pork BBQ.

  5. Welcome to the Daring Cooks and way to go for going all out! Those gorditas look super cool and delicious. And the polenta looks so creamy and delicious!! Really awesome job!

  6. What fun you had with this challenge!!! I tried the pudding as well, but it didn't work for me either. I love that you made the gorditas! They look delicious! I'm going to have to make those. I also used masa and made tamales. It was fun. What a great job on this challenge!!!!

  7. Amazing job for your first Daring Cooks challenge!! The gorditas in particular look delicious. I have some masa de harina left over from making tamales a while ago that I might dig out to give them a shot!

  8. Welcome to Daring Cooks!
    Your food looks really good!

  9. Welcome to the daring Kitchen
    You did a brilliant job on your first challenge
    I love how passionate you are about it
    and I am looking forward to your up coming challenges

  10. Yummy! I'm from Argentina and polenta is a common meal here, though it's a love it or hate it thing. I personally love it :) I'm sure you did it justice.