Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Regroup and Recoup

Once upon a time, I had the worst job in the world.

Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but I worked in call center for a credit card company as a bill collector. As you can imagine, my days involved a lot of rants from cardholders who couldn't make payments followed up by rants from managers because our customers weren't making payments. Delightful. The only thing that made the day bearable were my coworkers. Collectors are very funny people. I started this job when Jared and I just ended 4 years of long-distance dating by my moving to Delaware. A bachelor's degree in Psychology and years of research experience is not exactly a stunning resume outside of academia, so it was the job I could get.

Anyone who's received calls from telemarketers or bill collectors know that they always seem to call around dinner time or just when you're getting ready for work. I can assure that this is no mistake as our schedules required us to work these hours so we could call people when they would be at home. As a result, we worked really odd hours; I personally worked "split shifts" meaning 8am-1pm and 6pm-11pm Monday through Thursday. It was the only way I could get weekends off to spend with Jared (after all, I moved to spend more time with him) but it was grueling. By Thursday I was a zombie from lack of sleep and the emotionally exhausting nature of the job.

As a result, Fridays became my day to sleep in, relax, and forget about the workweek. I'd cook myself a delicious breakfast, read magazines, take long walks, and plan a couple of elaborate weekend meals to share with Jared. This recipe is something I often cooked myself when I just wanted something comforting and cozy to ease into the weekend and shake off my troubles.

You don't have to have a terrible job to enjoy this breakfast polenta. I actually really like my work now, but we all have one of those days when we just want to curl up on the couch with a warm cup of coffee and get lost in a few daydreams before facing the world. On those days, make yourself a warm bowl of vanilla, brown sugar, milk, and polenta and the day will seem better. I promise.

Breakfast Polenta
Adapted from Joy the Baker

Note: I divided Joy's recipe in half, since I originally starting making it on my Friday mornings off, which is why some of the measurements are a bit weird. However, this polenta doesn't require extreme precision; I put in 3 pinches of salt and just fill my 1/3 cup halfway with brown sugar. A little more, a little less, no big deal. As for the extra serving, you can share it (obviously) or you can stick it in the fridge. The next day, cut up the polenta into sticks, lightly dredge in flour and fry in hot oil. Or, put it back in the saucepan, add a little water, and stir over medium heat until it loosens up again.

Another note: This polenta is even better with just a couple of changes. Swap out the light brown sugar for dark brown sugar, and add a couple of tablespoons of cream to the milk. An absolute dream of a breakfast.

Makes 2 Servings

1/2 cup polenta
1 1/2 cups cold water, divided
1 cup milk
3/8 teaspoons salt
1/6 cup light brown sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Mix together the polenta and 1/2 cup of cold water in a small bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 1 cup of water and 1 cup of milk. Bring this to a low boil and then add the salt. Slowly add the polenta and water mixture, whisking constantly to remove any lumps.

2. Turn the flame to low and cook until thickened. The amount of time really depends on the polenta you use. I like Bob's Red Mill Polenta, which takes about 7 minutes, but I have used Quaker Yellow Corn Meal in a pinch, which takes 3-4 minutes. Once it's thickened, add the sugar and vanilla.

3. Serve the polenta in a big bowl, sprinkled with more brown sugar and pour on some milk if you feel like it.

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