Photo Credit: Maya Visnyei
Some days the word dinner is like a swear word in my house. If someone mentions it, I cringe. Right. Dinner. I've got to get on that. I have yet to meet a parent who always knows what to make for their family's last meal of the day (and breezily puts it together in 15 minutes). Actually, if I met that person I'm pretty sure I'd beg them to take care of my family too, since they have it all figured out.
What I do know when it comes to dinners is that it's best to put a plan in place in the morning - even if it's simply making a decision about what the dish will be. It's also helpful to have a rotation of entrées that are healthy, delicious and come together quickly. I'm always on the lookout for dishes to add to my repertoire. I'm also always on the lookout for good takeout joints. Hey, parents need a night off too.
First we start with Shrimp and Polenta, a surprisingly easy dish. Your family will think you slaved in the kitchen all day.
Shrimp and 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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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!
And our four other fast and fabulous weeknight suppers: