A rich and satisfying dish that evokes Italy’s beautiful floating city—Venezia! Together, polenta and shrimp make an elegant main course to serve family or friends. Cooking the polenta in the oven simplifies the process with little stirring involved.
1poundlarge wild shrimp,31-40 per pound, peeled and deveined
2tablespoonsfinely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Juice of ½ lemon
1tablespoonunsalted butter or ghee
Make the polenta. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or high-sided saucepan, whisk together the cornmeal, water, and salt. Cover the pot and place in the hot oven. Bake the polenta for 50 minutes, then remove it from the oven and stir vigorously with a whisk to break up the mass of polenta and give it a smooth creamy consistency. Taste for doneness (careful—it’s hot!). If it’s still a little chalky, cover and return it to the oven for 10 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter or ghee and whisk until well combined. Turn off the oven, cover the pot and return the polenta to the oven to keep warm.
Make the shrimp. Place the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic, and the red pepper flakes in a large, wide skillet and set over medium-low to low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic is softened and fragrant but not browned. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir in the wine and water. Sprinkle in the salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by about half.
Add the shrimp. Lower the heat to medium and add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer. Cook for 2 minutes, until pink on the bottom. Turn and cook on the other side for about 1 minute. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of parsley over the shrimp and add the lemon juice. Stir or swirl gently while the shrimp finish cooking. After another minute, add 1 tablespoon butter or ghee to the pan and swirl to incorporate it into the sauce. Remove from the heat.
Remove the polenta from the oven. Place 4 shallow bowls into the oven to warm briefly—1 to 2 minutes, just to take the chill off. Spoon a bed of polenta into each warmed bowl and top with shrimp. Spoon a little of the pan sauce from the shrimp over each serving. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
If you have any brown bits stuck to the bottom of your pan, use a wooden spoon to scrape them into the sauce when you add the wine. These are drippings from the shrimp and garlic that have been concentrated from the heat. They’ll add tons of complex flavor to your sauce!
Cornmeal is typically coarsely ground and is often labeled “polenta” in the supermarket. I prefer a mix of fine-grind and medium-grind cornmeal for polenta. Whatever texture you like, look for stone-ground, as it has more nutrition and a better flavor than cornmeal that’s been made with metal grinders. You can read more about Italian polenta in my creamy polenta recipe.