After being in Los Angeles for a few days I was looking forward to getting back into my usual routine, which includes making dinner.* Each morning I read The New York Times morning briefing over breakfast; yesterday’s briefing included a recipe suggestion that sounded awesome: Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms. So I decided immediately that I was going to make this recipe for our first real dinner together back in town.

Image credit: Michael Kraus for The New York Times

As written, the recipe yields four to six servings, so I decided I would halve it because I would be cooking for two and didn’t want a ton of leftovers. I also decided to make some modifications from the original recipe:

  • I used 1% milk instead of whole milk because that’s what I always get and I didn’t want to buy whole milk in addition to my 1%.
  • I used store brand Parmesan from a can instead of fresh-grated Parmesan because I always keep it classy.
  • –I used dried thyme instead of buying a whole bunch and only using a little of it.
  • I skipped the heavy cream—again, I didn’t want to buy a whole container just to use a tiny amount.
  • I bought spinach to sauté and serve alongside the polenta and mushrooms (as the recipe suggested).
  • I bought half the amount of fresh mushrooms needed since I was halving the recipe.

When it came time to start cooking, I fucked up from the get-go and didn’t stop fucking up the rest of the way through. Here are all the ways I fucked up while making this recipe:

  • Right out of the gate I failed to properly read the instructions on how to make the polenta. I was supposed to bring a combination of milk and water to a simmer and then add the polenta to it. What I did was dump the polenta into a cold pot along with milk and water and then bring it to a simmer.
  • I totally forgot about the “halving the recipe” thing when I measured out the polenta, milk, and water. Full recipe it is!
  • I started cooking the full amount of dried mushrooms along with half the amount of fresh mushrooms because that was what I had bought. Yet I continued with full recipe measurements for the sautéed mushrooms until the remaining three tablespoons of butter were already mostly melted in the pan. So the mushrooms had twice as much garlic and butter as they were supposed to (not the worst thing in the world, I suppose). They also had twice as much thyme—and because I used dried thyme it was more like four times as much because dried herbs are more intense than fresh herbs. I managed to remember to halve ingredients in time to measure out the proper amount of soy sauce, olive oil, and 1% milk (instead of heavy cream) for the amount of mushrooms I was cooking.

After my numerous cooking fuckups, the finished product looked like a bit of a hot mess:

But you know what? Despite all the fuckups, my polenta with mushrooms and spinach actually tasted great! Thanks, extra butter!

I wanted to share this particular cooking experience because so many blogs and social media accounts out there present a perfectly glossy picture. My life, my cooking skills, and my food photography skills are certainly imperfect, and when I’m inundated with flawless images on social media it can be hard to remember that it’s okay to share flaws. Cooking this recipe was frustrating at times, and though I didn’t end up with a beautifully mouthwatering image to share on Instagram, I ended up eating a very tasty meal with a side of learning experience. Maybe I’ll remember how to make polenta properly next time…or to actually READ the recipe before getting started (total rookie mistake!).  🙂

Have you ever fucked up a recipe but managed to salvage it? Do share in the comments!


*”Making dinner” sometimes involves heating up leftovers or using at least some pre-made items. I don’t do a full-on cook-fest every single night.