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.