I knew it was too good to be true – the sun didn’t last long at all. Back to cold and rainy. How do people do this regularly? Well, the only good side of all this grey is that warm, hearty food is perfectly acceptable in this weather. Scratch that, it is required.
That being said, I wasn’t in the mood for any of our usual suspects or traditional hearty dishes. I wanted something that was both comforting but a bit light. Does that even make sense? Well, if it does, I think I came up with something that worked wonders!
Polenta with shrimp and broccoli rabe. Polenta seemed like a perfect base, something that seems super decadent, but doesn’t have to be. And so instead of the route I often take with it, topping polenta with a meat or mushroom ragu, I thought shrimp. And we know that is a killer combo – shrimp and grits anyone?
But I still wanted something else – where the shrimp are not the showcase, and a lot more veggies.
And to be honest, since I made pizza I have been thinking about broccoli rabe. It always happens to me – I think of pizza – which makes me think of Pizzeria Delfina in San Franciso (I LOVE) – which brings me to broccoli rabe, as that is my favorite on their menu.
So that would be it – broccoli rabe with shrimp (instead of its traditional partner – sausage).
And since I like my shrimp just like I like my broccoli rabe – with garlic, chili flakes, and lemon – I figured we couldn’t go wrong.
But then, I second guessed myself. I did a quick search on epicurious.com and foodblogsearch.com to see if anyone else had paired these three things together, for some pointers, and I came up with nothing. I got a little nervous, thinking of the jillions of recipes on the internet, no one I trusted had done this combo before. Uh, oh was it going to be a disaster? Totally and utterly wong?
But thankfully I held my ground, went with my gut – and I will say it was a wise choice.
It was nice to not have heavy on top of heavy. We’ve gotta save something for when the snow starts, don’t we?
Polenta with Shrimp and Broccoli RabeFor the polenta: 1 cup polenta (not instant) or yellow cornmeal 4 cups water (or stock, or combination there of) 1 t. salt 1 T. butter ¼ cup parmagiano cheese – For the shrimp & broccoli rabe: 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined 3 T. olive oil, divided pinch chili flakes 1 lemon, zest and juice 2 cloves garlic, minced and divided 1 bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed and coarsely chopped ½ cup chicken stock or dry white wine salt pepper –
Combine shrimp, chili flakes, lemon zest (not juice, as it will begin to cook the shrimp), 1 T. olive oil, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to marinate.
Bring four cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add salt and then slowly whisk in polenta. Whisk occasionally (contrary to popular belief, you do not have to stir continuously – just every few minutes while preparing the other things) until all the liquid absorbs and the polenta is thick enough to hold a wooden spoon standing up, about 25-30 minutes. (Or follow the instructions for your particular brand – this is a pretty standard ratio, but every brand is different, with different size grains, etc.).
Meanwhile, blanch the chopped broccoli rabe in rapid boiling salted water for about 2 minutes. Then plunge in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Once cooled, drain and pat dry.
When there is about 10 minutes left in the polenta, heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat, and add 1 T. oil. Briefly saute the shrimp to get color, and but not cooking all the through, about 2 minutes. The shrimp will finish cooking with the broccoli rabe, and you do not want them overcooked – they get tough and chewy. Remove shrimp from the heat.
In the same pan, reduce heat to medium and add 1 (final) T. olive oil. Add the broccoli rabe and remaining clove of chopped garlic. Saute for about 1-2 minutes, then add the stock or wine to deglaze the pan, scrapping up any bits from the shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking as the stock reduces and the broccoli rabe becomes tender (but still with a bite), about 4 minutes. Add shrimp and cook for 1-2 more minutes until shrimp is cooked through. Finish with lemon juice and check seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
When polenta has finished cooking, add butter and parmesean cheese and stir to incorporate (don’t worry – it is not a lot and makes a big difference – in fact, most recipes are loaded with cream in the polenta – we went easy).
Serve polenta with shrimp and broccoli rabe on top, adding any bit of the juice that remains.