Sunday, September 11, 2011

Oven Baked Polenta With Sausages and Mushrooms: Parenting regrets

I had one of those bizarre moments this weekend where I looked back on some of my parenting choices and seriously regretted them.  I found myself in the position of beating myself over the head with what I could have done better...and wish that I had.

When we moved here from Seoul, Daughter #1 and #2 both spoke Korean.  In fact, their English was spoken with a pretty heavy Korean accent, and although they could understand English (because while in Korea I communicated with them mostly in English) they had had tons of exposure to Korean and heard me speaking lots of Korean on a daily basis.  That exposure and that experience really made them bilingual.  It was a situation I really loved and hoped to maintain while in the US.  Husband and I decided that we would speak only Korean at home while in the US, so as to continue to build their Korean language skills.

When we came back to the US, I put Daughter #1 in preschool and the first day, it was clear to me how much more articulate and well-spoken her classmates were in English.  I began to worry about her language and made the decision to focus on English, only for a few weeks, so that she would be able to keep up with her peers more and feel more comfortable communicating with her teachers.

That few weeks turned into...well...4 years.  Although I continued to used Korean sporadically, it was no where near the level I had used in Korea and truthfully I didn't really speak Korean to anyone else except for Parents and In-Laws.  Every other communication that I had was in English so suddenly their exposure to Korean became extremely limited.  Even as much as I wanted to communicate with Husband in Korean at home, we both would lapse into English as our topics were much more complicated and complex and required vocabulary that sometimes I didn't have in Korean (although Husband might have.)  Both of us became a bit complacent about our Korean at home.

This summer I made the decision to send Son and Daughters to Korean school every Saturday from the fall. (For the record, this was met with such crazed resistance at home, I likened the situation to mutiny on board a ship.)   I logically worked it out in my head that I too, had learned much of my Korean from school and from talking to my grandparents and parents in Korean.  That was the fundamental foundation of my Korean, and it dramatically improved living with Korean-language-loving Husband and living in Korea.  Korea was one of the harshest tests of my Korean and through communication with everyone in my mother tongue, the mother tongue rapidly improved.  I used to stun people when I told them I had gone to the US when only 7 months old and yet could speak Korean.  (The American accent almost disappeared, although not quite.)  It was a very important 3 years for my language development while living in Korea. and suddenly I found myself very much wanting Son and Daughters to speak the language.

Korean school - although will eventually be helpful, I decided is simply not enough.  3 hours a week at school isn't going to be enough to revive the language, so I've decided to run my own Korean language school at home, because I'm angry at myself for lapsing in the Korean instruction while the kids were young.  As I am the primary person who communicates with the children, I've become my own simultaneous translator. Over the weekend I began practicing many basic phrases with Children, and already Son and Daughters can respectfully ask me for their water in Korean.  Daughters and Son are becoming curious about the language and I hope that this way I can make up for my mistake and improve their Korean language.

Mistakes are hard, and I'm trying not to have regrets, but instead, change and adapt to the situation and improve on it.  Everything takes twice as long to communicate but hopefully they'll at least understand and speak some Korean. 

This polenta idea came from a book where it described cooking polenta without a stove and instead with an oven.  The idea sounded intriguing and I also wanted to adapt it to be able to take some deliciously savory toppings to counter the creamy polenta.  The result - polenta base that could be baked in the oven topped with a mushroom sausage saute that tasted excellently together.  I was worried about the baked polenta initially, but the reslt was something so delicious that I have no regrets about it, or the topping.  Enjoy this, no regrets (except maybe the waistline).
Oven Baked Polenta with Sausages and Mushroom
5 to 6 servings
adapted from Lazy Gourmet by Robin Donovan & Juliana Gallin

1 cup cornmeal (quick cooking polenta is fine as well)
3 ½ cups water
1 cup sweet corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup mascarpone
2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil (more if needed)
4 shallots, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic minced
8 oz sausages, diced or chopped into small, bite-sized pieces
10 oz of mushrooms, sliced or roughly chopped (Crimini are really lovely for this)
salt and pepper to taste
5 leaves basil, chiffonade

Preheat oven to 350. Oil a 2 quart baking dish. Combine cornmeal, water, corn, salt and pepper, stirring to mix. Bake in a preheated 350 oven, uncovered, for 40 to 50 minutes. Stir in Parmesan, mascarpone, butter and return to oven, baking another 5 minutes.

While polenta is baking, cook sausage mushroom topping. Heave a heavy saute pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil, shallots, garlic and sausages, and cook until all the shallots are transparent and the sausage is caramelized, about 6 minutes. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook for an addtional 4 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender.

When polenta has finished baking, pour topping mixture over polenta. Return to oven for another 7 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Sprinkle basil over the top and enjoy.

Printable recipe
no regrets here.


ruth said...

such a poignant piece- thank you for sharing!!!

Susan said...

This photo stopped me in my tracks! I, too, came to the States at a young age and was enrolled in Saturday Korean classes...reluctantly. I put up such a fight, my parents finally gave in...biggest regret of my life! I'll be looking into a Korean school near me very soon for my boys.

Madison Chloe Marie said...

I'm currently abroad right now, so I can most certainly understand your concerns with Language, that said, I've never had oven baked polenta before, it looks so delish.

Leslie said...

What kind of sausage did you use?

rashmi from said...

Wow this recipe looks great. I am a big fan of 1 dishes! I have been looking for polenta ideas. Don't have mascarpone cheese at home, I will try it with creme fraiche and see how it turns out.

I also really liked what you said about teaching your language to the kids. I am from India and till preschool I was able to teach my #1 enough of the language but since her exposure is limited she hasn't been speaking as much as I would like. Like you I also think that going to a school is just not enough and the learning has to be reinforced at home. Are you only teaching these Korean classes to your kids or kids of friends also?

nestra said...

I made this last night because my husband loves polenta. I'm not so crazy about it but figured with the mushrooms and sausage on top it would be ok. It was fabulous, best polenta I have ever had! Thanks for such a great recipe!

JenC said...

This turned out fantastic! Definitely making this again and again.

Monica Alfieri said...

this looks amazing! any chance of making it with the already cooked polenta logs you buy at the store?


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