Red pepper polenta cakes with shrimp and beurre blanc

Polenta??? You mean that tasteless corn meal mixture that comes in a tube? Absolutely not! Choke yourself! I recently saw that tube at my local trader joes. I tried it. It figuratively tastes like nothing. The thing I did find out, is that it makes an excellent flavor vessel. It will absorb whatever sauce you throw on it, and it makes an excellent addition to any meal as long as theres a sauce. I decided it didn’t have to be just a vessel. It could be a vessel, with a tiny party inside of it. It was time to make homemade polenta.

Polenta main

I took 5 minutes to emotionally prepare myself for this to be a difficult task. When I read up on it, I was pleasantly surprised. It really just involves stirring and boiling. The cornmeal did throw me for a brief loop though, I began gingerly pouring it into my boiling water, and whisking. The cornmeal immediately began to clump. It clumped into these ridiculously hard to break up mal-shaped little cornmeal turds. I went with my gut reaction, and grabbed my hand blender and went to town. If you do not have a hand blender, heed this warning. Pour very slowly. The clumps are very annoying.

Beurre blanc is my favorite butter sauce, it takes on flavors easily as well.  If you choose to make it with another meal, take the herb that you are using for your main course and toss a few bits of it in place of the thyme. It will suddenly perfectly compliment your meal. There are way too many plain beurre blanc recipes out there.

I spent a long time trying to determine what would make all this come together. I know this sounds ridiculous and simple but just placing all of this over a bed of fresh arugula was the perfect end to this meal. It added a peppery softness that contrasted the heaviness of the sauce and the polenta very well. Its not just a pretty garnish anymore.

For the polenta

4 cups water

1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal

1 tsp salt

1 roasted red bell pepper chopped

1 shallot finely minced

1 bulb roasted garlic

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Roast your red pepper, along with your bulb of garlic for approximately 30 minutes at 350. (I put my garlic in tinfoil and pour approximately a teaspoon of olive oil over it)   Once your water is boiling, SLOWLY begin to pour in your corn meal, whisking it as it goes in. Once you have poured in all of the cornmeal, drop your heat to medium low, add  salt and continue whisking/stirring until your polenta begins to thicken. Throw in the bell pepper, shallots, garlic cloves, and about half the cheese. Stir continuously for 5 minutes to let the cornmeal absorb the water.

Generously ladle the polenta into a greased muffin tin. This made about 12 full sized polenta cakes. Sprinkle the top with the remaining parmesan, and bake for 10 minutes at 400. Take the polenta out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes..

For the shrimp

1 lb shrimp

2 tablespoons of butter

1/4 cup wine

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/2 tsp salt

pepper

Melt the butter and add in the wine and lemon juice. Bring that to a boil, and the salt and pepper, and shrimp. Cook the shrimp on each side until they have completely changed colors, and the tail curls into itself tightly. About 5 to 7 minutes.

For the beurre blanc

1/2 cup of wine

1 bay leaf

a few pepper corns

1 chopped lobe of a shallot

1 chopped and crushed garlic clove

a splash of lemon juice

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup heavy cream

(a pinch, of flour if you jack it up…. (sacrilege))

Image

Add your wine, lemon juice, salt, garlic, shallots, peppercorn, bay leaf and thyme into a small sauce pan and bring it to a boil. Reduce it down to about 2 tablespoons, and strain the liquid into another small pan. Drop the heat to medium low and drop in your butter. Slowly whisk your butter into the flavored wine. I found it easier to cube my butter and move the pan around on the burner while it melted. That was also the only time my beurre blanc thickened to the level I wanted it to without extra magic. (probably because of the wishful sauce dance I did right before making it. I call it magic. Not skill.) I had my butter slowly melting into my wine. I began to drizzle in the heavy cream. Just keep whisking and drizzling for about 3-5 minutes. Once your beurre blanc has thickened, cease your sauce dance, and pour it over your polenta cakes and shrimp. Don’t let it sit, don’t clean, just get it on the food and out to the table and get to eating.

Now here’s a quick trick that may just send me to culinary hell. If your sauce doesn’t thicken, sometimes it just decides that you are a bad person and won’t, just take a pinch or two of flour, and throw it in there, turn your heat up and stir while it works its magic. A PINCH. Not a tea spoon, not a table spoon, A PINCH. Otherwise people will taste it, and look at you with disgust. For shame.

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