On its own, instant polenta is just a poor impostor of the real — and more labor intensive — thing.
But doctor it up a bit and it’s a different story. Swap out the water with milk, heap on the grated Parmesan cheese, then top the whole thing with shrimp cooked in bacon (and incredibly flavorful bacon fat), and you’ve got a seriously good and speedy dinner.
Instant polenta can be found alongside the pasta at most grocers. For a creamier version, once it has cooked whisk in a bit of creme fraiche, plain Greek-style yogurt, soft goat cheese or even cream cheese.
Leftover polenta can be spread flat in a baking dish and refrigerated. The polenta will set when chilled, then can be cut into chunks and grilled or broiled.
Soft polenta with bacon-fried shrimp
For the polenta:
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, minced
4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups instant polenta
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
For the shrimp:
1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 scallions, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced
1 pound peeled, deveined raw shrimp
In a medium saucepan over medium, melt the butter. Add the shallot and saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a simmer. In a steady stream, pour the polenta into the milk, whisking constantly until it thickens. Season with salt, pepper, parsley and Parmesan cheese. Mix well, then cover and set aside off the heat. In a large saute pan over medium-high, cook the bacon until crispy. Add the garlic, scallions, pepper flakes, bell pepper and shrimp. Cook until the shrimp is pink and cooked through and the bell pepper is crisp tender. Serve the shrimp spooned over the polenta. Can be served with additional Parmesan shaved over the top. Serves 6.