Polenta, an Italian specialty now found on menus from coast to coast, is either served soft or cooled, then sliced and fried or baked. Chef Randy Windham's recipe for soft polenta topped with pesto-marinated grilled shrimp is comfort food elevated to a new level of flavor. For a hearty lunch or simple dinner menu, double the portions and accompany with a green salad, Italian country bread and a dish of oil-cured black olives. Recipe by Chef Randy Windham of the Bistro at Maison de Ville, New Orleans, Louisiana.
- 1 bunch basil, stemmed
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup olive oil
- 20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 cups cold water
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup polenta (coarsely ground cornmeal)
- 1⁄3 cup unsalted butter
- 1⁄2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon basil olive oil
- 4 teaspoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
- ---To make the pesto---.
- In a food processor, purée the basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, salt and cheese until smooth.
- With the motor running, add oil in a slow, steady stream.
- Pour into a medium bowl, add the shrimp and marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- ---To make the polenta---.
- In a large, heavy saucepan, stir the water, milk and cornmeal together.
- Cook over low heat until thick, stirring constantly, about 25 to 30 minutes.
- Stir in the butter and cheese.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- ---The Finale---.
- Grill the shrimp over medium coals for 2 to 3 minutes on each side.
- Divide the polenta among 4 large flat-rimmed soup dishes.
- Place shrimp on top and sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and flavored oil.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and chives.