polenta on the grill

polenta on the grill

I got adventurous the other weekend.  I made an amazing flank stead rolled up with all kinds of yumminess inside and grilled it off.  But I was in need of a side dish.  So this post is not about the amazing flank steak, but instead, finding a suitable side dish.  Disappointed?  Sorry.  Maybe I will muster up that post another time!  Since my husband and I were, (or constantly are) in the midst of self-hatred when it comes to diet choices, I figured mashed potatoes were out as a side option.  The kids were so tired of brown rice that they said they would rather have beets.  Ok, so they didn’t say that, but I understood their complaint (considering that my father thinks beets taste like dirt, I never really have tried them, and so I have yet to introduce them into my household).  I  needed something to go with the meat and salad I was preparing, but what do you plug in that fills that carb void?  French fry nachos?  Now that’s a thought…(note for the Superbowl!).  Scrolling through iPad land, I came across a polenta recipe that seemed to fit right in.  It was creamy and had sautéed veggies in it and cheese.  Now I need to sell the family on polenta.  I remember a few years ago though, buying the tube of polenta that you could cut into discs and grill or sauté.  After maybe the second time preparing them…probably topping them with an arugula salad or something…my husband finally told me that he felt he was eating what he described as preformed nastiness – dogfood-like crap, and that I didn’t need to make that dish any longer.  He can be direct.  Looking at this recipe, however, this preparation was different.  The polenta could be cooked in a cast iron skillet on the grill, and you could add to it pretty much whatever you wanted.  Now self-hatred aside, yes, there is cheese, but I didn’t go crazy.  I used some feta and some parmesan.  In another life where I could prance around in a size nothing and bloating didn’t exist, I would opt for cheddar craziness, goat cheese or even gouda….anything else but feta!  But this tasted good.  I was thrilled, and so was the family.  I could cook it right on the grill and not have to jump between the steak and the stove.  Win win!  Plus, it didn’t taste like beets!


polenta with mushrooms and tomatoes on the grill:

3  TB butter
1  4oz pkg pancetta
1  cup polenta
4  cups hot chicken broth
1  3oz pkg mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup  grape tomatoes, sliced
1  jalapeño, sliced
1/4 cup  crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup  grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt
black pepper


Preheat your grill to medium high heat.  Heat up the stock on your stove or directly on the grill.  Gather all of your ingredients and have them ready at your grill.  Place a 10 inch or larger cast iron skillet on the grill.  Add the butter so it starts to melt.  Add the pancetta and render until browned but not crispy.  Add the polenta and give a quick stir.  Pour the hot broth over, and gently whisk to prevent any lumps forming.  Continue to whisk until the mixture starts to get thick.

pancettaadded polenta

Once thick, add mushrooms, tomatoes and jalapeños.  Stir to combine.  Let cook on the grill for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in parmesan and feta and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If necessary, toast it under the broiler for a minute or two to finish it.



finished polenta


shiitake pot stickers

shiitake pot stickers

I’m very blonde.  I am not talking about L’Oreal Preference shade 92 natural blonde (much to the dismay of my hairdresser, that box does get purchased from time to time – and used – usually when I am bored).  I am speaking about the fact that I will oftentimes neglect to purchase the main ingredient of a meal or something that is at the least, integral, to a dish.  These were supposed to be pork pot stickers, but I came home with everything but the pork.  I can’t tell you the amount of times I pay at the cashier and as I’m wheeling out of the store, realize I didn’t buy the fish for the tacos, or for that matter the tacos.  So I am THAT woman, with a cart full of bagged groceries, heading back to get what I forgot, worrying that people think I’m shoplifting tilapia.  My husband just shakes his head when I tell him.  I could even have the list with me, and if I don’t write it in the way I shop the aisles, you can kiss something on the list good-bye.  We have just learned to live with the occasional menu change or the task of going through the cashier line twice.  I was really looking forward to making these because it is something the kids like too, so I had to improvise – no going back to the store.  Not too hard to do with a dumpling actually, so I was in the clear….this time.
I have made a variety of dumplings and if you are sitting there, folding up 30+ little guys, the last thing you want to see is them coming unsealed in the pan.  Make sure you don’t skimp on the water and that you seal the edges well.  I decided to try the gyoza skins because they are round, and found that they were easier to fold up and crimp than the square wonton wrappers.  These came out perfectly, and tasted great even without the fatty pork.  I did make the mistake of storing extra pot stickers in a glass container without considering the fact that they would stick to one another and make one giant dumpling.  So with the mini victories come the defeats.  I dealt with it and moved on.

shiitake pot stickers (sans the pork)

Peanut oil
8  oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
8  oz white button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
4  TB low-sodium soy sauce, divided
2  tsp sesame oil, divided
1/3  cup green onions
2  garlic cloves, minced
1  2 inch piece of ginger, minced
1  jalapeño, seeded and minced
1  10 oz pkg. cabbage slaw mix
30  gyoza skins

dipping sauce:

4  TB water
4  TB soy sauce
4  TB rice vinegar
1  tsp dark sesame oil
2  garlic cloves, minced

jalapeño ginger scallions

get started on the pot stickers:

Heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Add a tablespoon of peanut oil.  Add in the two kinds of mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are softened, about 4 minutes.  Add 2 TB of the soy sauce and 1 tsp of the sesame oil, cook for 30 seconds.  Add onions, garlic, ginger and jalapeño and cook for another 2 minutes until flavors combine.  Stir in coleslaw and cook for 2 minutes until cabbage wilts, stirring frequently.  Taste mixture and add in remaining soy sauce and sesame oil if needed.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.  While mixture cools, combine ingredients for the dipping sauce, stirring well with a whisk.

mushroom mixtureassembly line

Working with one gyoza skin at a time (cover remaining with a damp towel to prevent drying), lay out 8-10 skins on your board.  Spoon 1 TB mushroom mixture in the center of each skin.  Moisten edges of the skins with water.  Fold in half, pinching and edges to seal.  Heat peanut oil in the same large non-stick pan over medium heat.  Arrange pot stickers in the pan in a single layer.  Cook 2 minutes or until browned on the bottom (or a side).  Add one cup of water to the pan and cover.  Continue to cook the pot stickers another 4 minutes.  Uncover and cook until liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes.  Place dumplings on a plate and cover to keep moist and warm.  Continue making the remaining dumplings.  Serve these immediately with dipping sauce…..and hot chili sauce of course!

pot stickers waitingcooking the pot stickers