I love it when a plan comes together, when a dish in your imagination turns out as delicious as the actual experiment. This is one such meal.
Last night I put a little gourmet Italian twist on southern-style Shrimp n’ Grits, then added a serving of smoky-garlicky greens as a side. The results? Not only was the presentation gorgeous, it tasted heavenly. As in I would absolutely put a this recipe in the category of “the perfect bite” and serve it up in a spoon to Nigella Lawson and Anthony Bourdain on the show “The Taste”. Then step back and wait for them to swoon and hand me the prize without further debate.
In place of the traditional grits, I pan-fried thin slices of ready-made polenta, often used in Italian recipes. I used Trader Joe’s brand, which comes in package shelf (not refrigerated), usually near the Italian section of the store. It looks like moist, cooked cornmeal made into a log and wrapped in plastic. That is because, well, it is. It is not the most appetizing looking food when you open it up for slicing. (Think yellow corn grits that may have been left too long in a pan.) However, once you’ve pan-fried them in olive oil and butter, with a little salt and pepper…. Look out, Louise. They turn into crispy-edged, buttery disks of corny decadence.
I can’t wait for you to try this recipe, a Taste of Tuscany meets South in Your Mouth.
Bon appetito, Ya’ll!
Shrimp Alfredo with Crispy Polenta and Greens
½ log of pre-made polenta
1 T. butter
1T. olive oil
Dash salt and pepper
For Shrimp and Alfredo:
20 pieces of raw medium shrimp, cleaned, peeled, tails removed
1 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cream
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
1 T. Olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced,
½ red onion, diced fine
2 slices pork or turkey bacon diced fine
4 cups loosely packed, rough chopped kale and/or other greens, thick stems mostly removed
½ cup water
1 t. smoked paprika
1 T. vinegar, your favorite
1 T. brown sugar
Salt and Pepper (or Grill Seasoning or Cajun Seasoning) to taste
Tabasco or Frank’s Red Sauce or Red Chili Pepper to taste
Start the greens first, so they can simmer on the back burner. In your largest deepest skillet, saute olive oil, garlic, red onion and bacon, until bacon crisps. Pile the greens on top of this mixture in the skillet, cover with ½ cup of water, cover, and let the greens cook down about 5 minutes over medium heat. Take lid off and stir in paprika, vinegar and brown sugar, add salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste. Cover again and simmer while you make the shrimp and sauce. (Adding water if needed to keep from scorching, but no more than necessary.)
In another skillet (I like my iron skillet) let oil and butter melt and get hot while you slice the polenta into ¼ inch or so rounds. Place the rounds in the skillet and turn heat up to medium high so that the polenta starts to pan fry. When it is golden brown in places, turn it over and brown the other side. Sprinkle the tops very lightly with salt and pepper. Remove to a paper towel to drain any excess grease, then cover with another paper town to keep warm.
Wipe out the iron skillet with a paper towel, and then put in oil and garlic and shrimp. Cook for just a minute or two until shrimp just turns pink on both sides. (You can add a little water to the pan if the shrimp starts to stick.) Add cream and parmesan cheese. Stir and heat until cheese is melted and the shrimp and sauce is heated through. Season lightly with salt to taste, if needed.
Put about 5 or 6 rounds of polenta on each plate. Pile with shrimp and sauce. Sprinkle with smoked paprika. Serve with a side of the greens.
(Becky, the Mama)
As the story in our family goes, one day my father took my little brother David and my little sister Rachel out to the bank of a lake to cast a line and do a little fishing. If you’ve ever taken children out fishing, you know you do very little ACTUAL fishing. It’s mostly about putting on lost bait and untangling lines. David was probably about eight at the time, and Rachel about age five. To this day, my sister is an “observer” and “information gatherer.” If you saw Friday’s post you know my sister also grew up to write humor, but where I tell stories (often about the messes I seem to get in with uncanny regularity), Rachel is more Seinfield-like, finding humor in everyday quirky observations.
Anyway, she keenly observed my brother cast line after line with a ball of catfish bait attached to the hook. We called this horrid, sticky black concoction, “stink bait,” and to this day I don’t think I’ve smelled anything worse in my life, including my teenage sons’ gym socks. Apparently, however, catfish adore it. My father and brother would each cast their lines, and when they reeled them in, it would come back empty — the bait gone, but no fish — over and over and over again. Rachel took all this in, and about the fifth time the bait disappeared she shook her head slowly back and forth, and dryly concluded, “I know a catfish who’s gonna be sick.” To this day we chuckle knowing she assumed one fish and one fish only consuming all that bait. From then on when anyone in our family declared they were eating too much and feeling “stuffed,” someone would pipe up with, “I know a catfish who’s gonna be sick.”
If, however, you are lucky enough to be better at catching catfish than feeding them, then…boy, do I have a recipe for you! And if you don’t have access to a pond or lake, no worries. It is easy to find good fresh farm-fed catfish in larger supermarkets and most of it has never been frozen. This easy recipe turns out a fish that is crunchy, slightly spicy with a great lime tang on the outside, moist and flakey on the inside. This is a slight twist on a southern favorite that is wonderful with a side of coleslaw and some oven-broiled sliced potatoes. (Recipe for these potatoes coming up this week!)
NOTE: Rachel and I are staring at the final months before a book deadline, and in order to have time to write it, we’re going to begin posting this food blog three days a week instead of five. Typically this will be Monday, Wed, and Saturday.
Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish
4 medium sized catfish fillets
1 c. cornmeal
1 t. grill seasoning (or 1/2 t. salt 1/4 t. pepper and 1/4 t. garlic powder)
1 t. Tajins chili-lime spice (If you don’t have this, substitute 1/2 t. ground red pepper and zest of one lime)
1 fresh lime, cut in half
1/2 cup healthy oil — I like a combination of coconut and olive oil (to equal about 1/4 inch in your pan of choice)
Heat oil in iron skillet until it is sizzling hot, on medium high. Gently rinse fish fillets with fresh water and pat dry. Squeeze a little fresh lime juice over all the fillets, both sides. Then sprinkle both sides of fillets with some good sea salt. Pour cornmeal on a plate or shallow wide bowl and mix in the grill seasoning and chili lime spice. Place fillets, one at a time, in cornmeal mixture pressing the fish into it until it is lightly coated all over.
Using tongs, lay each fillet into the sizzling oil. Let cook until the bottom is golden brown and crisp, then turn over and cook the other side. Don’t crowd the pan too much, cook in batches.
When done, remove to a paper towel and let any of the extra oil drain off. Test a bite to see if it needs more seasoning and if so sprinkle with additional Tejon or sea salt while it is still hot. Serve with tarter sauce or fresh lemon or lime, or cocktail sauce.
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The Title: Chili Lime Southern-Style Catfish
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