Ahhhhh…the heavens have opened and I have found a new love. For awhile now I have been curious about polenta but it was usually mentioned hand-in-hand with grits. This made me hesitant and it was little bit of a turned off, because it was compared in likeness to grits and I hate grits. I know to some people that may sound sacrilegious, but what am I going to do? I just don’t dig the texture.
I was please to discover that polenta in both texture and taste is very different. Polenta is in a league of its own and should never be compared to grits. It was delicious, luscious and creamy. It just hit the spot. I wanted to lick the plate…..shoot I wanted to lick my face, it was so stinking good. Even Hubby liked it and asked for seconds. He feels the same way about grits as I do. We are just not down with grits. I mean the name alone is a turn off….”grits”. Which means it is gritty. Why would you want to eat something gritty? Ok enough grits bashing. Forgive me grits lovers.
I did do some research to figure out what was the difference between grits and polenta. Thru my investigative prowness this is what I discovered.
Polenta: A version of cornmeal mush originated in Northern Italy. Coarsely ground yellow cornmeal is cooked with stock or water and flavored with onions, garlic, and cheese. Polenta may be eaten fresh out of the pot – a perfect accompaniment to stews. Polenta may also be poured into a greased pan and allowed to cool, set, and harden. It is then sliced, sautéed, fried and topped with everything from cheese to tomato sauce.
Grits: Another 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. It’s used as a side dish, a breakfast cereal, or as an ingredient in baked goods. Varieties include quick-cooking grits and instant grits. Most grits come in a choice of grinds — coarse, medium and fine and can be cooked with water or milk — usually by boiling or baking.
Sources: YumSugar Alton Brown
This explains why I like polenta so much more then grits. They both may be cornmeal based, but the ground of the cornmeal is different and so is the preparation. Therefore they both have a very distinct difference in texture and taste.
My mother also informed me that there is a version of polenta that is traditionally made in Puerto Rico called “funche”. I have never heard of funche and I do not believe I have ever eaten it either. It is usually prepared as a breakfast cereal. Made with milk and sweeten with sugar. Go figure!
Anyways this dish was delicious. The polenta and shrimp complemented each other perfectly. The sauce of the shrimp was sweet with just a bit of heat that creeped up ever so slightly. I could have used a little more heat, so I may add extra crushed red pepper next time. The polenta counters that heat and is just decadently creamy. Ohhhhh so delicious…….*droool*. Polenta is my new love.
This is a must try. Oh an there is a bonus….it is gluten free. Oh and a bounus on top of a bonus….you can make this delicious dish in 20 minutes. I KNOW RIGHT! I am also truly amazed.
Thinly slice 2 cloves of garlic.
Cut 16 grape tomatoes in half. I used the Cherub tomatoes and they are delicious. Little plump balls of goodness.
Dice 1/2 small red onion.
Season 14 shrimp with 1/4 tsp of kosher salt
1/4 tsp of ground pepper,
1 Tbs of olive oil. This reminds me I need to buy olive oil. I used the last of it here.
1/4 tsp of crush red pepper. I like to crush it a bit more in a mortar and pistol, it pumps the heat up a bit.
In a pan, heat 1 Tbs of olive oil at a medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic and tomato paste, stir breaking up the tomato paste. If you like you can add 2 Tbs of water or chicken stock to thin it. Once the paste has broken up and the onions are starting to get tender add you tomatoes.
Stir in the tomatoes. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add season shrimp. Cook until the shrimp is a light pink and begins to curl. Shrimp cook very quickly, usually in 3 to 7 minutes. Don’t overcook them because it makes them a little rubbery. As soon as they are done remove from heat.
To prepare polenta:
I used a box of instant polenta. I used only half of the box since I was making dinner for only two. I followed the directions on the back but I substituted chicken stock for the water. I added garlic to the chicken stock. When the polenta was thick I stirred in the 1 Tbs of butter and 1/3 cup of shredded Parmesan. If your polenta is a little too think just keep some warm chicken stock near by and add it little by little, until you have the consistency you want.
Serve shrimp over polenta. Garnish with torn fresh basil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
You will think you have gone to heaven.
Ugh…. I almost forgot the breakdown.
Spicy Tomato Shrimp with Creamy Polenta (Serves 2)
- 14 Large shrimp, deveined and peeled.
- 16 grape tomatos
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/2 small red onion
- 2 Tbs tomoato paste
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp groud pepper
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
- 2 Tbs olive oil, divided
- 1/2 box instant polenta (abt 3/4 cup)
- 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Serve shrimp over polenta and garnish with torn basil and shredded parmesan cheese.
My Puerto Rican grandmother would make me funche for breakfast when I was a child. Growing up in NY I never knew the real name for it and would call it harina de maiz. Whatever it was called it was always a treat. It was made with water, milk, sugar, cinnamon and a tiny bit of salt. I’ve never seen it served with fish broth. Interesting. Great photos BTW!
Franco-Italia Frog says
Polenta did NOT originate in Italy. Even the method of cooking the dish itself did not originate in Italy, but in the Americas.
Corn originated in North America, and the pounding of corn into cornmeal/grits was first carried out by the African populations in North America. There are several grits-type dishes that are still made in the South by the Black population and one in particular is identical to what you call Polenta, except there are more flavorings inside of it. It’s also preferred stiffer.
This method of cooking cornmeal would arrive in Italy via trade, along with the tomato (which is also indigenous to the Americas).
However, using the term “polenta” is very much specific to Italy. The dish itself, however, is not at all. Alton Brown should know better (even we in Europe know the dish came from America).
This looks like it will need to be supper tomorrow night! Dinner in less than a half an hour and yet looks like that! Polenta is easy to make from scratch and there is usually plenty for leftovers. Last time I shaped it into a log. wrapped it in plastic wrap and threw it in the fridge. When we wanted it a few days later we sliced it and sauted it in some olive oil.
Jeff & Lucie says
Wow. We just made this dish. We added a little sherry to the red sauce. This is a fantastic dish we are adding to our favorites
Yummy! Thanks for the quick and easy recipe. I fell in love with polenta with red sauce as an exchange student in Montevideo, Uruguay when I was 15. 20 years later, I still crave it. I was dreaming of a creamy polenta dish with red sauc, but feeling too lazy to put too much effort into dinner. This was perfect. I added just a little sugar to the red sauce to cut the acidity a bit, and I added a little milk and aged asiago to the polenta to make it creamy. It was delicious. THANKS! I also really appreciated that you included pictures.
Well I have to say that “funche” in Puerto Rico is “kind of” and has about the same consistency of polenta but usually it’s made with just cornmeal,water and salt and maybe some butter and usually is made to accompany a fish broth (Don’t ask me why…cause I don’t know…fushi!).
In the other hand…the “cremita” or breakfast porridge it’s made with very fine cornmeal,milk, sugar, a pad of butter, vanilla and in some cases and egg yolk….just in case “el “muchacho” esta flaco y lo quieren engordar”….plus with the egg yolk added it’s very good!
Well..that’s my explanation of the differences between Funche, Cremita y Polenta!
That is my Mom with the 411.
Stacey Snacks says
I love polenta, but usually only make it in the winter w/ osso bucco or sausages.
I like the light shrimp w/ tomato idea!
I will be making this one!
You make polenta look yummy. I’ve had it a few times and have never been a fan. But topped with shrimp and spicy tomatoes? Who knows? 🙂
I think it is how you make it. Must use chicken stock instead of water and it will be delicious.
Beautiful dish! The shrimp cooked in tomato sounds fantastic, and served over polenta, it must have been a great meal. Wish I was having this for dinner tonight!