Recipe - Spicy Shrimp and Parmesan Polenta

I went a little out of order this time around. Our Test Kitchen ingredient this week is polenta that we had bought out of curiosity but with so many talking about how I should make it fresh instead, I knew I had to try that day. Therefore, this recipe will contain polenta before my Test Kitchen post goes out about polenta but it was so darn good, I could not hold myself back. Polenta itself when simply explained is just a porridge made from cornmeal so that's what we did. To recall some semblance of one of my favorite Southern dishes (shrimp and grits), I decided to add some pan-fried shrimp to the dish. Take a stab at this simple recipe yourself and let me know what you think.

Step 1: Ingredients (yields 2-3 servings)

  • olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup cornmeal, coarse grind
  • 2 tbsps Parmesan, grated
  • 3 tbsps butter, unsalted
  • 12-16 large shrimp, size about 21-25
  • 2 tbsps smoked olive oil (or regular)
  • 1 tbsp ghost chili salt (alternatively red chili flakes + sea salt combined)
  • ground black pepper

Step 2: Making the polenta
Mince garlic cloves and add to a hot saucepan with olive oil on medium heat. Before the pieces burn, add in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Then add in cornmeal and Parmesan, stirring frequently to prevent from burning. Lower heat to low and continue stirring until the whole mix has thickened. When at the consistency you like it, turn off heat and add in butter, stirring until fully incorporated.

Step 3: Cooking the shrimp
Remove the shells from your shrimp except for the last bit of tail for a "handle" of sorts. Devein. Brush each with the smoked olive oil. I used smoked olive oil because it really accentuates the ghost chili pepper used later but if you don't have either, feel free to just use olive oil and other chili peppers. Then rub the salt all over the shrimp. Heat a medium skillet and using the tail handle to lay down the shrimp, place them down next to each other, cooking about 1 minute per side. Shrimp gets too tough if you overcook it, and it overcooks easily!

Step 4: Finishing
Spoon polenta onto a plate. Crack fresh black pepper over polenta as desired and topped with shrimp. We added some fresh sprigs of thyme on it too but it's not necessary. There you go - simple but delicious dinner!

Photography by Minerva Thai.