Browsing through Whole Foods and seeing these beautiful jumbo shrimps, I knew I had to do a twist on the classic “shrimp and grits”. This southern favorite is loved for its creamy base, large bites of shrimp, and bold flavors. I’m switching it up with polenta and a smoky-spicy combination that will have you digging in for more.
I absolutely love polenta. A large bowl of it is the perfect comfort food for chilly nights. I’ve made just a basic polenta recipe and added lots of Manchego cheese to it. Manchego is a semi-soft Spanish cheese that’s made from sheep’s milk. It’s nutty, tangy, and absolutely delicious. I always shred more than needed just to snack on while cooking. Even though it’s a little pricier than other cheeses, I think the flavor makes it completely worth the purchase. I melt the cheese right into the polenta and add a touch of butter to make it extra smooth and rich.
So the polenta is the base for the shrimp…now we need a topping. Spicy tomatillo salsa verde will do! I broil tomatillos and serrano peppers until they are basically black. This will give them lots of smoky flavor and a softness that I prefer over using raw vegetables in this salsa. Serrano peppers have a mild heat, but to me they’re pretty spicy. If you want less heat, remove the seeds after broiling. A little red onion and lemon zest complete the salsa before it’s spooned over the shrimp. And speaking of shrimp, I first cook whole chorizo sausages and slice them in large chunks. The shrimp is sautéed in the chorizo drippings so all of the bright, bold flavor sticks to every bite of shrimp. This…plus the spicy salsa…piled high on top of cheesy polenta, is a winning combo. Enjoy!
- 5 medium tomatillos
- 2 serrano peppers
- ½ small red onion, diced
- ¼ teaspoon lemon zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¾ lb raw, whole chorizo sausage
- 1 lb jumbo shrimp, cleaned and tail-on (see Kayla’s notes)
- salt and pepper
- ½ lemon
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup polenta
- 4 oz shredded manchego cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- With the broiler on high, broil the tomatillos and serrano peppers for about 5 minutes on one side before flipping them over and finishing them for 5 more minutes, or until completely charred. Let cool. Peel off the skins and finely chop the tomatillos and peppers. In a mixing bowl, toss the tomatillos and peppers with the red onion, lemon zest, salt and water. Set aside until ready to serve.
- In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chorizo (left whole) and cook for about 10-12 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove the chorizo and let rest on a cutting board. Return the pan with the chorizo drippings to the heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 2-3 minutes per side. Cut the chorizo on a diagonal into large chunks and toss back into the pan with the shrimp. Give the entire pan a good squeeze of lemon right at the end.
- While the chorizo is cooking, start the polenta. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the polenta and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the polenta until thick and creamy, continuing to whisk until it is done. Add the Manchego cheese and let melt. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Serve a large mound of shrimp and chorizo over the Manchego polenta. Top with the salsa verde.
- To clean the shrimp, first remove the head. Then peel off the shell, leaving the last segment intact so that the tail stays on. To devein, run a pairing knife down the back of the shrimp (don’t cut too deep). Use your fingers to remove the thin, grey vein that lies within. Rinse with water and pat dry.