Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shrimp & Grits...With an Italian Twist

When Nick and I lived in Richmond we only saw my folks a few times a year. They would pack up their Winnebago, drive down to VA and set up camp next to our house for a few days (actually, about a week after we bought the house my Dad photo-shopped his camper into a picture of our house and sent it to us...this is exactly what a visit to our house looked like when they were there).

Prior to their visit I would always ask the same question, "What can I make y'all to eat?!", and my mother always had the same answer, "Shrimp and grits!". It makes me sad to say that I never once made my Mama shrimp and grits for dinner. I suppose it's because Nick never thought it was "substantial" enough and I sort of get his point. Not everyone can get excited about what is basically seafood on top of breakfast cereal. We did, however, make it for ourselves when we were jonsin' for it, and even now, living up north, I still get a hankerin' for a big 'ol bowl of buttery shrimp over cheesy grits. So the other day when the craving hit me I decided to put a bit of a twist on it, and as much as I hate to admit it, I just might like this version more (my "southern girl" membership card might have just been revoked).

Grits is corn meal, plain and simple. It's a staple in so many cuisines...think masa in Mexican, polenta in Italian, etc. So I thought, why not make one of my FAVORITE corn meal dishes, creamy polenta, and top it with sauteed shrimp, throw in a side of braised kale to replace the predictable collard green and voila! You have got to give this dish a try. If you don't think you like grits. If you don't think you like "greens". If you don't think you like shrimp. This dish will change your mind.

Creamy Polenta & Shrimp

For the polenta:
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Salt & pepper to taste

For the shrimp:
1 (ish) pound good, raw shrimp
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbs fresh parsley
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1/8 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbs white wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
(I had a few cuquillo olives leftover so I diced them up and threw them in, but I would leave them out next time)

2 tbs. toasted pine nuts

Peel and de-vein your shrimp, then combine all ingredients for the shrimp in a bowl, whisk, add the shrimp and let marinate in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 mins.

In a saucepan slowly warm the milk, chicken stock and cream until just before a simmer. Now add the polenta and cook, while whisking, for 2 to 3 mins or until the polenta begins to thicken. Remove from heat and add the cheese and perhaps a bit of olive oil or butter if it looks dry.

While the polenta sits, heat a saute' pan to medium-high heat and add the shrimp and most of the marinade (eyeball it...if it looks too dry, add more want enough liquid for a sort of "sauce"). Cook the shrimp until just pink (don't overcook!!).

I like to serve this in a large, shallow bowl. Place the polenta in the bottom of the bowl then spoon the shrimp and sauce on top. Sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and serve!

**For the side of kale simply::::: Thoroughly wash a bunch of kale. Saute' a half onion (chopped) and one clove of garlic (minced) in some olive oil. Now simply add the kale, about 1/8 cup of chicken stock, a little salt and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Cook on medium until the kale has wilted (about 8 mins). It's SO easy and SO good!!!**

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