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This shrimp dish was a throw-together meal that turned out better than expected. My inspirations were the Mardi Gras celebrations I read about all day yesterday and a few ounces of mascarpone cheese that needed to be used post-haste. I was reminded that mascarpone does wonderful things to polenta, making it even creamier than usual, but what to serve with the polenta? I had some cocktail shrimp in the freezer, left over from Christmas Eve, and some assorted veggies in the crisper– there was my meal. Shrimp and grits! Kind of. This is a riff on that fabulous dish, minus the bacon because I used what I had on hand. It turned out great, a meal that we will certainly have again (my husband loves polenta), and one I am happy to share.

shrimp & veggies with polenta

Shrimp & Sauteed Vegetables with Creamy Polenta

For the shrimp:

  • 1 T. canola or grapeseed oil
  • 1 c. thinly-sliced mushrooms
  • half of a bell pepper, diced
  • 1 – 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 ripe roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 T. tequila (or water)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 3/4 lb. cooked shrimp*

For the polenta:

  • 1 c. milk
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 c. polenta
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 oz. mascarpone

The timing of this dish works well when you start heating the liquids for the polenta at the same time you begin sauteing the vegetables. If you prefer not to do both dishes at once, make the shrimp and cover to keep warm, then make the polenta.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat and add the mushrooms; cook for about 5 mins., stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the bell pepper, green onion (reserve some of the dark green pieces to use as garnish) and jalapeno. Cook until the peppers soften a little, about 3-5 mins, then add the tomatoes. Cook for 5 mins., stirring to prevent sticking. Add the tequila or water and allow the liquid to cook down for about a minute, then cover the pan, turn down the heat to medium and simmer for 5 mins. Add the salt & pepper to taste. Add the shrimp to the pan and toss to coat with sauce; since it is already cooked, you are just heating it through. Be careful not to cook too long. Remove the pan from the heat and keep covered until the polenta is ready.

In a large saucepan, heat the milk and water over medium-high heat until it is steaming and just beginning to boil. Whisk in the polenta and continue to stir until the mixture thickens. Add salt & pepper and garlic powder, reduce the heat to medium and stir until the polenta reaches a consistency you like; this generally takes about 5-7 mins. Remove from the heat, stir in the mascarpone and taste; adjust seasoning as needed.

To serve, ladle warm polenta onto a plate and spoon the shrimp and vegetables over the top. If your sauce is thin or watery because of the shrimp, as mine was, return the pan with just sauce and vegetables, no shrimp, to high heat and quickly reduce the sauce, stirring constantly, for about 1 min. It will boil vigorously and should thicken and reduce into a sauce; don’t leave the stove, as it can burn very quickly. Pour this over the shrimp on the plate. Garnish with the reserved green onions.

*I used cooked shrimp because that’s what I had on hand; I defrosted them under cold running water and added them to the pan, tail and all. You can absolutely use uncooked shrimp; they will cook quickly and beautifully in the vegetable sauce.