I have two girlfriends celebrating their 40th birthdays this weekend. One of them comes and sips some wine on Friday nights and we are sitting here watching 20/20 One Moment in Time: The Life of Whitney Houston, still somewhat in shock of the singer's tragic transition. Funny how music can take you back to a certain time, a certain place...you can remember what grade you were in, who you were dating, what the fashion was...
I wanted something quick and hearty for dinner and decided to make some polenta. Grits or polenta? Grits are a version of cornmeal mush originated in the American south made from hominy or plain corn that's ground until it has the consistency of coarse sand. When I could eat refined carbs, I loved to eat grits for breakfast. But I enjoy polenta more with savory meals, such as fish and shrimp and grits. Polenta is cornmeal simmered in water or broth to create a thick, porridge-like, creamy mixture. You can use yellow or white cornmeal; fine, medium, or coarse-ground texture cornmeal. The more fine the cornmeal, the creamier the polenta will be. You can serve polenta like grits or you can cut it into squares. Pour it into a shallow pan, lined with parchment paper, and allow to cool. Once set, cut into squares or triangles, brush with olive oil and grill or saute in a skillet.
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 quart chicken stock
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 c coarse ground cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 oz grated Parmesan, optional
Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the red onion and salt and cook until onion turns translucent. Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic, and saute for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat, and bring to a boil. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Cover and cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent lumps. Add butter and salt and pepper, to taste. Incorporate the Parmesan. Serve.
Shrimp and Grits
20-30 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 c mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 c chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
4 slices cooked bacon (chopped), optional
Lightly season shrimp with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate.
Lower heat, add mushrooms to skillet and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook approximately 1 minute. Increase heat, add broth, and scrape bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon. Cook until broth reduces. Return shrimp to skillet along with the lemon juice and butter, and cook for a minute, until sauce thickens.
Ladle shrimp and sauce over polenta and garnish with scallions and bacon.
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