Today, I greet you with something insanely comforting, warm, and inherently, a part of my childhood. Growing up in a Northern Italian family, we ate a lot of polenta. I'll admit, my first experiences with it were lost on me as a 7/8 year old. I was like, why are we essentially eating cream of wheat with chicken? V confusing for me at the time. A few years later, and a few more experiences getting my hands dirty in the kitchen, and I understood the merits. It's a fully customize-able peasant food vehicle, that can be whatever you want it to be. Fried? Hell yes. Along with chicken cacciatore? Double hell yes, and also, that one's coming soon, guys. As a soft, herbaceous, Parmesan-laden bed for rainbow chard, tomatoes, crisp prosciutto, and juicy shrimp to rest upon? YAS. PLEASE.
Before we shrimp it up, just a quick word from my sponsor, Personal Anecdote. Wink emoji.
My sweet boyfriend, Benjamin and I met when we were 16 and 17 respectively, dated when we were 18 and 19 for about 8 months, broke up, and found each other again as almost 30-year-olds. While there are so many reasons I hold our story so dear, it's honestly the gems of memories that keep popping up since we've gotten back together that never cease to amaze me. Mainly because it shows how we all take in experiences so differently and different moments stand out for each of us individually. For example: He shared with me a memory he had when we were like 18, and we went to dinner at the home of my wonderful grandparents, Joe and Joyce. This was a super regular occurrence, which is why I probably didn't absorb the experience as a future precious memory. In fact, still, the memory itself seems kind of anticlimactic. We were having polenta and bolognese sauce that night, and Ben simply said he remembered my mom, sister, and I each taking turns stirring the polenta when my grandma Joyce was occupied (most likely making drinks). Seriously, such a simple memory. If he would have told me that stood out to him at the time, I know without a doubt it would have been totally lost on me. Now, much has changed. We lost my grandparents in June of 2017, and now, that memory will forever be a little polenta post-it note in my mind. It's a tiny testament to the community created around meals in my family, and the ease of us all being together. Since I first introduced this as a sponsored anecdote, let's just go with the code SappySally2018 for 30% off your first month of Mental Post-Its. Screamin' deal, ya'll. Thanks for bearing with me.
To start, bring 9 cups of water to a rolling boil. While you're waiting on that, crisp four slices prosciutto in a pan on medium heat. Flip once, browning on both sides, and transfer to a bed of paper towels to drain.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons salt to your boiling water, and gradually whisk in 2 1/2 cups cornmeal, being sure to stir vigorously to avoid any lumps. Whisk frequently, until the cornmeal has fully softened, about 20 minutes.
While you're cooking your polenta, roughly tear 7 stalks of rainbow chard, and heat a scant amount of olive oil on medium-low heat. Add 1 minced shallot, and saute until it starts to become translucent. Next, add your chard, and your garlic atop the chard, and toss together. Turn heat on low, and cover. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the tomatoes have expelled a good amount of liquid, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Season your shrimp with salt, and cayenne pepper. To a large saute pan, add 4 tablespoons butter on medium-high heat. add your shrimp and garlic, and de-glaze with the white wine. Toss shrimp until fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Finish with your lemon juice and zest.
Add 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter to your polenta, along with 1 1/2 cups whole milk at room temperature, 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan, 1 cup freshly chopped parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. FYI, it will need a good amount of salt.
Add your polenta to a bowl, along with your tomatoes and chard, shrimp, crisp prosciutto, and garnish with fresh basil leaves, a few spoonfuls of your white wine sauce, and even more Parmesan. Serve with lemon wedges.
This is a bowlful of winter-meets-summer. It makes a delicious and relatively cheap dinner that comes together so fast, and dare I say, it would make an excellent brunch, backslash hangover cure.
What's a favorite food memory of yours? I would love to know!
I hope you're gliding through this week like the gazelle that you are.
Parmesan Polenta & Shrimp Bowls with Rainbow Chard, Tomatoes, Crispy Prosciutto, & White Wine Sauce
For the polenta:
9 cups water
2 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 1/4 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups milk at room temperature
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan
1 cup freshly chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
For the rainbow chard + tomatoes:
7 stalks rainbow chard, roughly torn
12 cherry tomatoes
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
For the shrimp + white wine sauce:
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined, tails on
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tbs unsalted butter
3/4 cups dry white wine
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbs lemon juice
4 slices prosciutto
Fresh basil leaves, torn