All right. We all get a little harried once the calendar page flips over to December. Unrelenting work, chores and errands have to be wrapped around additional holiday preparation and events.
I had to step off the crazy train for a little while last week, when I realized that six of my meals in the past week had consisted of pizza – hot and fresh, or cold and congealed. Don’t judge, it’s easy and quick, and hey, tomato sauce and half a mushroom sliced really thin count as vegetables, right?
What I was craving was something toothsome, something layered with a mélange of tastes. And I got it, when I caught up with a friend over lunch at the stellar Garden Café in York, SC. A plate of shrimp, diced bacon and fresh spinach, sautéed and served over grit cakes almost made me cry.
That’s a wintery dish I can get behind. So, when we saw frozen shrimp from Pamlico Sound at the farmers market last weekend, it was a no-brainer dinner plan.
I made mine with pancetta, the non-smoked Italian bacon studded with black pepper. It puts out a lot less grease when sautéed, so you don’t have to drain the pan before you add the other ingredients. Most grocery store delis carry it now. Get the half pound you need for this recipe sliced into three thick slabs, then dice it yourself.
This dish comes together quickly when you purchase pre-made polenta (usually found in logs in the produce section). Just slice and sauté. I use garlic powder because this dish is cooked over relatively high heat, and fresh garlic will scorch quickly.
Once you’re full, get back to those presents – they aren’t going to wrap themselves.
Shrimp and Spinach Saute with Polenta
1/2 pound diced pancetta
4 oz. premade polenta, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 pound peeled shrimp
8 oz. fresh baby spinach
1/8 tsp garlic powder
juice of one lemon
Stir and brown pancetta over medium-high heat in a large pan. Remove to a dish. Pat polenta slices dry with a paper towel, then add to the pan and cook 3-5 minutes per side, until edges begin to brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Add the shrimp, spinach and garlic powder to the pan and stir continuously, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. If the moisture from the spinach isn’t enough to help scrape up the browned bits, add a tablespoon of water or real sherry. Cook until shrimp are pink and spinach is wilted, 3-5 minutes. Add the pancetta back to the pan at the last minute to reheat it. Place polenta on serving plates. Stir the lemon juice into the shrimp mixture and pour the mixture over the polenta.