Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Grilled Delights: Chimicurri Shrimp, Polenta & Asparagus

To a Southerner, shrimp and grits is as traditional a dish that is as American as apple pie. Grits is a type of cornmeal mush that is a breakfast staple in the South and is cooked with milk or water. Polenta is a close cousin of grits that originated from Italy. It too is a cornmeal mush but one that will harden when cooled and set into a jello-like consistency. When it hardens, the polenta can be sliced into various shapes and then sautéed, grilled or even deep-fried (coated with breading).

For this dish, I am making my own version of shrimp and grits, using polenta instead of grits and marinating my shrimp in the Argentinian chimicurri sauce (You can read about how to make chimucurri sauce in my earlier blog post). Everything in this dish is grilled: the shrimp, polenta and asparagus.

Fist, let's talk about how to make polenta, this one a savory version and pretty easy too. You'll need the following ingredients:

3/4 cup cornmeal
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 large onion (diced small)
4 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon thyme (fresh or dried)
Salt & pepper to taste
Jalapeño (diced small, optional)

Start by melting the butter in a pan. Sauté the onions and garlic and then add the chicken broth. This is also the point that you can add the jalapeño. Bring the liquid up to a simmer and then add the cornmeal a little at a time, stirring constantly so that it won't clump. Add the thyme and continue stirring, cooking until it exhibits a thick consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper and then pour it into a baking pan and cool the polenta down in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.

While the polenta cools down and hardens, marinate the shrimp in the chimicurri sauce and let it sit in the refrigerator as well. After marinating for a couple of hours, use a bamboo skewer to arrange the shrimp and get it ready for the grill. As for the asparagus, cut about an inch and a half off the bottom and add oil, salt and pepper.

When the polenta has hardened, you can cut it up into any shapes you like (square, triangle or even circles). Spray it with cooking spray and start grilling. Be careful when handling the polenta on the grill because it is still quite fragile and will break apart if not handled delicately. After the polenta, you can also grill the shrimp and the asparagus.

And there you have it, grilled jumbo shrimp with grilled polenta and asparagus. When serving, add some extra chimicurri sauce on the side for dipping.

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