I love Gulf Shrimp and I love bacon so imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to play around with some beautiful Wild American Shrimp from the Bluewater Shrimp Company in Dulac, Louisiana and Black Pepper Bacon Jam from The Bacon Jams.
I had a few thoughts about what to do with the shrimp but the bacon jam was new to me. After giving it a taste I decided I wanted to bring out that goodness we all know to be in bacon and the sweetness of the “jam”.
I wanted a hearty but light dish. Does that make sense to anyone but me? A little heat, a little sweet and that comfort that is oh so good as the cooler days approach. Ok, fine – oh so good anytime 😉
When I got the thoughts out of my head and onto a plate, this is what happened!
What you will need:
For the Polenta:
1 Cup of Polenta
2 Tbsp The Bacon Jams, Black Pepper Flavor
For the Ragu:
1 Pound Wild American Shrimp – Peeled & Deveined
1 Tbsp Butter
1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Onion – Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Carrot – Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Celery – Finely Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic – Minced
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine (substituting stock will be fine)
1 14.5 oz Can of Hunt’s Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Garlic
1 Medium Zucchini – Sliced
1 Medium Yellow Squash – Sliced
1 1/2 to 2 Cups Chicken Stock
Red Pepper Flakes
Parsley – Chopped
Let’s Get Started!
I recommend making preparing the polenta a few hours and up to a day in advance.
Prepare the polenta according to the package directions but once you’ve stirred the polenta into the water, add the bacon jam. Stir well to be sure there is bacon jam goodness in every single bite.
I like to add a little salt & pepper to my polenta as it’s cooking too. – that’s optional.
When the polenta is done, use a little olive oil, butter or cooking spray to “grease” an 8×8 (9×9 works too) baking pan. Pour the polenta into the prepared pan, using a spatula to spread it evenly and give it a smooth top.
Pop the pan into the refrigerator to cool completely. We’ll get back to this shortly.*
For the Ragu:
In a medium-sized saute pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat until the butter has melted and the oil is hot.
Add the onion, carrot and celery to the pan and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir into the vegetables so that everything is blended/coated well. Cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook while stirring for 1 minute. Toss in a couple shakes of salt & pepper.
Next, slowly stir in the wine and continue to cook the vegetables and wine until the wine has just about evaporated. (just a couple of minutes) While the sauce is simmering with the wine, open the can of tomatoes and toss them in a blender or use a wand blender and give it a few pulses. You don’t want to fully puree, just make it a little less “chunky”. Once that’s done, add them to the pan. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Add a little stock if the liquid is evaporating too quickly. Give it a taste and a shake or two of salt & pepper.
Stir in 1/2 of the stock. Once it is well blended, stir in the rest. Let the sauce simmer and reduce by about 1/3. Depending on how much liquid you used and how hot your medium/low setting is, the time for this will vary. The idea is to have a nice tomato sauce with some light liquid but not too watery or too thick. Sounds strange but you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when you see it in the pan.
Taste again and add salt and pepper to taste if needed.
*Now would be a good time to take the polenta out of the refrigerator and turn the oven. Set it to Broil.
Add the sliced squash and zucchini to the sauce. Stir gently and let the sauce continue to simmer for 5 more minutes.
Add the Wild American Shrimp. Stir to and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on size of your shrimp. Stir once or twice per minute for even cooking.
Turn off the heat, add a shake (or three – depending on how much heat you like) of roasted red pepper flakes, give the sauce another stir or two, cover the pan and remove from the hot burner. The sauce will be hot and the shrimp and vegetables will stay hot and finish cooking.
Let’s get back to that polenta. Run a butter knife around the edge of the pan just to be sure the polenta is “loose”. Gently turn it out onto a cutting mat or board. It should slide right out. Cut the polenta into 4 even slices or squares and place each piece on a baking pan.
Brush each square with olive oil and sprinkle with a little parmesan.
Place the pan under the broiler. Keep an eye on it, you want the top to crisp, not burn.
Let’s get this dish plated!
In a shallow bowl or on a dinner plate, spread about a tablespoon of the liquid from the sauce down first.
Spread it around to lightly coat the dish.
Place a piece of polenta in the center of the plate.
Spoon the Wild American Shrimp Ragu over the polenta and sprinkle with a pinch of parsely just before serving.
I hope you’ll give it a try.
Thanks to the American Shrimp Processors Association for sponsoring my writing! When making the decision to cook with shrimp, be sure to check the sourcing. Shrimp purchased in a retailer should proudly state “wild-caught” or “Wild American Shrimp.” For a list of retailers, please visit www.americanshrimp.com/for-the-home.