Speed Dinners: Shrimp & Polenta

Speed Dinners: Shrimp & Polenta

Here’s my latest thought about overcoming the seeming impossibility of the weekday dinner: do one thing in the morning. Okay, it’s really two things.

1. Decide, roughly, what you’re going to make.

2. Do something about it.¬†Take chicken thighs out of the fridge. Take down the box of cous cous and put it on the counter. Make a list of what you’ll pick up on your way home from work.

It’s not much but it puts you on the road to dinner. You don’t have to stress about it at 3:30 – you already know what you’re making! Of course, you still have to do it but it’s jus that much easier to face if you take the decision element out of it. Brilliant, isn’t it? I really do think it’s brilliant and sometimes I don’t do it. You’d think an hour and a half would be long enough to get four humans fed and out the door in the morning but some days it is simply not. And on those days I’m lucky to walk out the door with combed hair and matching socks.

For those days you need a recipe that requires zero prep or planning. This is it. If you keep a box of polenta in the cupboard and frozen shrimp in the freezer, that is. I used to be all uppity about fresh seafood but Ben has worn me down to accepting that most of what I buy marked as fresh has been flash frozen, so in fact…. so now, when it comes to shrimp, I buy frozen. And peeled, and de-veined because if I’ve taken the step toward buying frozen I may as well got the whole way. They’re fastest things to cook and my kids are obsessed with them.

photos by Maya Visnyei

Shrimp & Polenta

1 cup instant polenta
4 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup bacon, chopped
2 garlic clove, minced
2 good glugs of olive oil
1 28 oz. can of tomatoes
1 lb frozen or fresh shrimp, peeled, de-veined, washed
1 small handful of parsley

Method

Bring the water to a rolling boil and slowly pour into your polenta. Bring the heat right down, right away. The polenta will thicken up right away and it will pop and spit at you if you keep the heat on high. Most packages recommend taking it off the heat after one minute. Marcella Hazan says keep cooking and I’m going to listen to Marcella. Lower the heat and keep stirring for 3 to 5 minutes. Take it right off the heat and cover.

In a large-ish pot, warm up the olive oil then add bacon and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the bacon gets brown but not crispy. Add the tomatoes and break them up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher. Let that simmer for about 10 minutes.

Now, about the shrimp. If I hadn’t been cooking this dish for a picture I’d have taken the tails off. Who wants to dip into a sauce-y dinner and either cut or bite the tails off? Not me. But for a photo the tails really do make it. Toss them in with or without tails and stir. They’ll cook really quickly – 3 minutes tops.

Give your polenta another stir and maybe even add a splash of water to loosen it up. Create a little nest of polenta and then ladle your sauce-y shrimp on top. Garnish with parsley. I served this with a side of peas because they’re so quick to make, too. Start to finish, the whole thing is about 20 minutes! What’s your go-to fast dinner?

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16 Comments

  1. Laura
    September 27, 07:48 Reply
    Great advice! I love to cook, but lose all ambition at about 6 o'clock in the evening. I have to have a plan in place ... and even some pre-chopping done, or perhaps the chops marinating. If dinner is well on it's way, it makes for a much smoother evening.
    • Ceri Marsh
      September 27, 20:08 Reply
      So glad you like it! Let me know if you try it. Am definitely going to come up with more polenta recipes as it's ridiculously easy to make (and I'd been avoiding it, thinking it was tricky).
  2. Denise @ TLT
    September 29, 15:44 Reply
    Great dish! I love polenta: easy, fast and so comforting!
  3. Jenny
    September 29, 22:43 Reply
    The strategy of planning dinner before you leave for work is inspired! As soon as I master getting my work clothes ready the night before, I'm going to be all over this one.
  4. Jeta
    October 05, 11:07 Reply
    I just love polenta with cheese! But I have to admit, this dish looks YUMMY!
  5. Anna
    October 06, 20:37 Reply
    Polenta and shrimps --- Perfect! I have not mastered de-veining though...but I can always ask hubby to help me. That's his expertise. He's a phlebotomist, I often tease him that he's expert with veins. This is the perfect huband and wife bonding activity!
    • Ceri Marsh
      October 15, 15:20 Reply
      Hi Anna, Sorry I didn't get back to you faster! Did your husband give you a lesson in de-veining? He certainly should know! If not, here's what you do: Hold your peeled shrimp in one hand, hold a small, sharp knife in the other. Run knife down the back of the shrimp, right down the middle, from head to tail. It will be easy to follow the line as it will be darker than the rest of the shrimp - that dark stuff is what you're going to take out. You only need to cut down just a bit to make a slit that will release the vein. Once it's open place the tip of your knife under the dark vein at the head end and pull up - it will most likely come out in one long, slightly gross piece. Flick that thing in the garbage! I always rinse my de-veined shrimp in cold water to remove any little bits that are clinging on. It sounds fussy but once you get the knack for it, it goes very fast. I promise! Let me know how it goes!
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  11. Carol
    February 12, 10:10 Reply
    I dont really know what polenta is??? But all the recipes i see on Todays Parents seem great, i have actually tried some of them! Mmmmm!
    • Laura Keogh
      February 13, 09:20 Reply
      Polenta is cornmeal boiled into a porridge. You can add butter, cheese and fresh herbs to make it taste even more wonderful. If you have a chance, give it a try and let us know what you think. Also, thank you so much for checking out our recipes on Today's Parent. We appreciate you taking the time to drop us a line. Best, Laura

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