Between the necessary substitutions and other changes made due to my boneheadedness or other, I can say with ninety percent confidence that I did not make the pear dish to specifications.
Let's start with accidentally making a full serving of the filling, rather than the two-thirds I needed for my two pears. Follow it up by not reading ahead in the directions and tossing the lemon juice before I realized I needed it for the dressing. I was actually able to salvage them, but I'm not sure I got enough lemon juice. For an encore, miss the fact that you need a baster to redistribute the liquid during cooking and frantically improvise with a pastry brush. (This actually worked out decently, methinks.)
By this time, I've gotten moderately less incompetent with a paring knife, but the melon baller utterly defeated me in the kitchen colloseum.
(FoodNetwork: Kitchen Colloseum sounds way cooler than Kitchen Stadium.)
I had to take the pears out of the oven finally because the liquid had started to burn to the bottom of the pan, not because they were one hundred percent tender. I managed to salvage a bit of it for the dressing, but not quite enough. I used less arugula than recommended: I started mounding it on the plate, stared at the sheer amount of greenery, stared at what was left in my box o' lettuce, and gave up.
Final verdict: The way I made it, changes and all, it came out perfectly. Seriously. Somehow. I don't know whether the port makes it too sweet, but I can say for certain that even using candied walnuts does not. Would definitely make again, but would not cut portions: I suspect the extra fluid is needed to avoid the burning-on-dish issues mentioned above. I actually think the listed amount of filling was perfect for two pears, so would increase it for three.
On to the polenta, where I discover that, despite it being above the label that said gorgonzola in the grocery store, I had not grabbed gorgonzola, just garden variety blue cheese. Luckily, blue is fine for our purposes. I learned that cornmeal bubbles fast - you want to get the heat down as soon as possible or you have a giant cornmeal monster sencing tiny streamers of polenta handwards.
Final verdict: The recipe is good and easy, but I'm still on the fence. I'm trying to decide if this is really a taste I'm into. (Cue a movie trailer for the love-lorn polenta: She's Just Not That Into You.)