Speed Dinners: Shrimp & Polenta - Sweet Potato Chronicles - Sweet Potato Chronicles

Speed Dinners: Shrimp & Polenta

Here's my lat­est thought about over­com­ing the seem­ing impos­si­bil­ity of the week­day din­ner: do one thing in the morn­ing. Okay, it's really two things.

1. Decide, roughly, what you're going to make.

2. Do some­thing about it. Take chicken thighs out of the fridge. Take down the box of cous cous and put it on the counter. Make a list of what you'll pick up on your way home from work.

It's not much but it puts you on the road to din­ner. You don't have to stress about it at 3:30 — you already know what you're mak­ing! Of course, you still have to do it but it's jus that much eas­ier to face if you take the deci­sion ele­ment out of it. Bril­liant, isn't it? I really do think it's bril­liant and some­times I don't do it. You'd think an hour and a half would be long enough to get four humans fed and out the door in the morn­ing but some days it is sim­ply not. And on those days I'm lucky to walk out the door with combed hair and match­ing socks.

For those days you need a recipe that requires zero prep or plan­ning. This is it. If you keep a box of polenta in the cup­board and frozen shrimp in the freezer, that is. I used to be all uppity about fresh seafood but Ben has worn me down to accept­ing that most of what I buy marked as fresh has been flash frozen, so in fact.… so now, when it comes to shrimp, I buy frozen. And peeled, and de-veined because if I've taken the step toward buy­ing frozen I may as well got the whole way. They're fastest things to cook and my kids are obsessed with them.

pho­tos by Maya Vis­nyei

Shrimp & Polenta

1 cup instant polenta
4 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup bacon, chopped
2 gar­lic clove, minced
2 good glugs of olive oil
1 28 oz. can of toma­toes
1 lb frozen or fresh shrimp, peeled, de-veined, washed
1 small hand­ful of parsley


Bring the water to a rolling boil and slowly pour into your polenta. Bring the heat right down, right away. The polenta will thicken up right away and it will pop and spit at you if you keep the heat on high. Most pack­ages rec­om­mend tak­ing it off the heat after one minute. Mar­cella Hazan says keep cook­ing and I'm going to lis­ten to Mar­cella. Lower the heat and keep stir­ring for 3 to 5 min­utes. Take it right off the heat and cover.

In a large-ish pot, warm up the olive oil then add bacon and gar­lic. Cook for a few min­utes until the bacon gets brown but not crispy. Add the toma­toes and break them up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher. Let that sim­mer for about 10 minutes.

Now, about the shrimp. If I hadn't been cook­ing this dish for a pic­ture I'd have taken the tails off. Who wants to dip into a sauce-y din­ner and either cut or bite the tails off? Not me. But for a photo the tails really do make it. Toss them in with or with­out tails and stir. They'll cook really quickly — 3 min­utes tops.

Give your polenta another stir and maybe even add a splash of water to loosen it up. Cre­ate a lit­tle nest of polenta and then ladle your sauce-y shrimp on top. Gar­nish with pars­ley. I served this with a side of peas because they're so quick to make, too. Start to fin­ish, the whole thing is about 20 min­utes! What's your go-to fast dinner?

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  1. Laura says:

    Great advice! I love to cook, but lose all ambi­tion at about 6 o'clock in the evening. I have to have a plan in place … and even some pre-chopping done, or per­haps the chops mar­i­nat­ing. If din­ner is well on it's way, it makes for a much smoother evening.

  2. Melissa says:

    This is bril­liant. A keeper.

  3. Ceri Marsh says:

    So glad you like it! Let me know if you try it. Am def­i­nitely going to come up with more polenta recipes as it's ridicu­lously easy to make (and I'd been avoid­ing it, think­ing it was tricky).

  4. Denise @ TLT says:

    Great dish! I love polenta: easy, fast and so comforting!

  5. Jenny says:

    The strat­egy of plan­ning din­ner before you leave for work is inspired! As soon as I mas­ter get­ting my work clothes ready the night before, I'm going to be all over this one.

  6. Jeta says:

    I just love polenta with cheese! But I have to admit, this dish looks YUMMY!

  7. Anna says:

    Polenta and shrimps — Per­fect! I have not mas­tered de-veining though…but I can always ask hubby to help me. That's his exper­tise. He's a phle­botomist, I often tease him that he's expert with veins. This is the per­fect huband and wife bond­ing activity!

  8. Ceri Marsh says:

    Hi Anna,
    Sorry I didn't get back to you faster! Did your hus­band give you a les­son in de-veining? He cer­tainly should know!

    If not, here's what you do: Hold your peeled shrimp in one hand, hold a small, sharp knife in the other. Run knife down the back of the shrimp, right down the mid­dle, from head to tail. It will be easy to fol­low the line as it will be darker than the rest of the shrimp — that dark stuff is what you're going to take out. You only need to cut down just a bit to make a slit that will release the vein. Once it's open place the tip of your knife under the dark vein at the head end and pull up — it will most likely come out in one long, slightly gross piece. Flick that thing in the garbage! I always rinse my de-veined shrimp in cold water to remove any lit­tle bits that are cling­ing on.

    It sounds fussy but once you get the knack for it, it goes very fast. I promise! Let me know how it goes!

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  15. Carol says:

    I dont really know what polenta is??? But all the recipes i see on Todays Par­ents seem great, i have actu­ally tried some of them! Mmmmm!

  16. Laura Keogh says:

    Polenta is corn­meal boiled into a por­ridge. You can add but­ter, cheese and fresh herbs to make it taste even more won­der­ful. If you have a chance, give it a try and let us know what you think. Also, thank you so much for check­ing out our recipes on Today's Par­ent. We appre­ci­ate you tak­ing the time to drop us a line. Best, Laura

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