Monday, August 9, 2010

Spicy Shrimp and Collard Greens over Creamy Polenta

I have this habit of trying a dish once and then moving on.

So, in the spirit of change, I decided to focus on once recipe this week. For some reason, I have been craving shrimp and polenta for quite a while now. I am not sure if I have ever eaten this dish, but the idea of sweet juicy shrimp in olive oil over creamy polenta has been taunting me. I did a little recipe research to get some ideas, and dove in earlier this week for my first attempt.

This is such a simple dish, so my first try surprisingly successful. However, the greens weren't cooked as well as I would like, and I felt like there was a depth missing in the shrimp.

So, on my second attempt, I came a little closer to perfection. Here it is...

1 cup polenta
3 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lb medium/large wild shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on (why? it's prettier)
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cayenne or jalepeno peppers, minced
2 TB tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1 TB butter*
handful chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley
4 cups chopped fresh collard greens or spinach
Sea salt & pepper

In a saucepan, bring vegetable broth to boil. Slowly whisk in polenta (whisking prevents clumping), add bay leaf, and a couple pinches of salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil over med heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and chiles, saute for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. When the garlic begins to brown, add wine and tomato paste, whisk, and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Add shrimp, and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. This step is important. Overcooking shrimp is a very common mistake, and can make the difference between juicy and fishy.

While the shrimp is cooking, heat up a small amount of oil in a deep skillet, and add turnip greens and a pinch of salt. Cook them for a minute or two, adding a little water as needed to steam. They should only need a couple of minutes, then transfer them to a mesh strainer to drain the water. Try not to squeeze them too hard, or they will loose their form and look like a mess.

Ok, back to the shrimp - When the shrimp is almost opaque, it is time to add the next ingredients. Add lemon juice**, butter, and parsley, and remove from heat immediately.

Test polenta, and add salt if needed. If it is too thick, whisk in more broth or water to desired consistency. Add 1-2 TB of butter for extra goodness.

In a shallow bowl, spoon polenta in the bottom, Place a mound of greens on top, and, then pour shrimp and pan sauce over top. Garnish with a sprig of parsley.

Voila! A delicious dish that is both simple and impressive. This recipe can be little tricky on timing, because there are a number of things that need to happen at once. Don't get overwhelmed by it - just try it a couple times to get your rhythm.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and as Julia would say, "Bon Appetit!"

*For butter, I use Earth Balance, a vegan butter alternative. I am not vegan (hence the shrimp recipe), but I find it yummy and it is made from mostly expeller-pressed oil, so I feel it is healthy. However, if you would like to use real butter, I suggest getting some farm fresh butter from a farmer's market in your area, preferably from a grass-fed cow farmer. The taste difference will blow you away.

**If you don't have a juicer (like me), squeeze your lemons over a mesh strainer to eliminate seeds.


  1. Ashley, This sounds DELICIOUS! I'm going to try it as soon as I get home from the beach to keep that beachy-vacation feeling going. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Ash, I'm going to have Rusty fix the shrimp & polenta for us. It looks & sounds delicious!!!

  3. Let me know how it turns out - the whole "measuring" thing is new to me.

  4. I can't wait to try this Ashley!

  5. When you mince your jalapeƱos, do you include the seeds, or no?

  6. Aaron - I do include seeds, but I like things with a kick! Removing the seeds is a great way to control the heat level of the dish - but I know you can handle it. ;)