By Jessica Roy Happy New Year! Welcome 2016! Well, YPC readers, we made it through a hectic holiday season (hopefully) unscathed, and now it's time to look toward a refreshing start and a clean slate to get everything done that we weren't able to accomplish for 2015. My goal is to get more people excited about being in the kitchen, and cooking delicious food.
I figured I'd start the year off with a bold recipe that is deliciously flavor rich, comforting, but also something "entry level" so as to not scare off any new resolution cooks. Drumroll please! I bring you the 2016 kick-off recipe: Creamy Jalapeno Bacon Polenta with Seared Shrimp.
A few words to the wise:
1. Shrimp are quite delicate, and do not take very long to cook at all -- 1-2 minutes on each side in a super-hot skillet should do the trick.
2. Polenta is Italian style cornmeal porridge, and can be finished to a variety of textures from soupy to firm. I prefer a soft and creamy spreadable consistency.
3. You can use any type of cooking liquid you like for the polenta, my favorite being a combination of milk and stock.
4. Grate both the shallot and jalapeno in this recipe so that there are no large chunks, and the flavor fully infuses into the mixture. Buon appetito!
Creamy Jalapeno Bacon Polenta with Seared Shrimp
For the shrimp:
1 lb. jumbo shrimp (16/20), peeled and deveined
1 lemon, juice
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a small mixing bowl, avoiding any seeds. Add the olive oil, paprika, honey, salt and pepper to the bowl, and whisk thoroughly until everything is combined.
Place the cleaned shrimp into a large zip-top bag, and pour the marinade over the top. Seal tightly, and allow to marinate for 15-20 minutes before cooking.
Place a sauté pan over medium-high heat, and add enough olive oil just to coat the bottom. Once the oil is hot, add shrimp to the pan one at a time so that none are touching. You may have to do two batches, depending on the size of the pan.
Allow the shrimp to cook at medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes on each side until they are bright pink and opaque. Remove from the pan immediately, and transfer to a plate gently tented with aluminum foil. Serve seared shrimp atop heaping spoonful of polenta.
For the polenta:
1/2 lb. smoked bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1 small shallot, grated or finely minced
1 jalapeno, seeded, grated or finely minced
1/2 cup fine ground cornmeal (polenta)
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper, as needed
1 Tbs. butter
Place a sauté pan over medium heat, and allow it to get hot. Add the bacon in an even layer to the pan, and allow to cook over an even medium heat until brown and crisp. Remove pan from heat, and transfer cooked bacon to a paper towel lined plate.
Add milk, stock, shallot, jalapeno, sugar and 1 tsp. salt to a 3-quart sauce pan, and give a good stir. Turn the heat to medium-low, and allow the mixture to warm, just until there are light bubbles around the edges of the pan.
Pour the cornmeal into the cooking liquid in a light stream while consistently stirring. Allow polenta to cook for 15-20 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and cornmeal is tender. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Finally, stir in butter and cheese until melted. Serve immediately, and garnish with the cooked bacon.
Jessica Roy is a specialty chef and caterer, food writer and chef instructor, and owner of Shiso Kitchen in Somerville, where she teaches classes. Follow her at http://blogs.lowellsun.com/yourpersonalchef.