This week, we enjoy a second seafood pairing with the Gourmet Goddess herself, Lucie Moulton, because we are finally, thankfully, surrounded by ice, snow and low lights leading to longer days. Earlier this winter, we discovered Lola’s Fine Hot Sauces and were amazed by their flavors so we joined with Rhode Island’s own Chef Lucie to create a seafood dinner with cornmeal from Kenyon’s Grist Mill, perfect for cold New England nights when everyone gathers in kitchens, no matter how large the living room.
This dish serves four to six people, is easily prepared and while its high notes certainly resonate well while we can still see our breath, come Spring, Lola’s Fine Hot Sauce flavors will easily complement venison breakfast sausage with eggs, fresh beach caught bluefish or sweet Deep Hole fluke fillets patiently cooked with bacon and grits. Prep time is about 20 minutes, cook time is one hour.
1 teaspoon neutral oil, like olive, grapeseed or vegetable
1 pound reserved shrimp shells
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon peppercorns, whole
Kenyon Mills Creamy Polenta “Grits”:
1 cup Kenyon Mills Johnny Cake white cornmeal
2 cups of water or shrimp stock
2 cups milk or cream
1 teaspoon of sea salt
4 Tbsp. salted butter, like Kerrygold
1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons Lola’s fine hot sauce
4 oz. slab bacon or thick-cut bacon, cut into ½” cubes
2 Tbsp. flour, seasoned with Cajun spice (See Notes)
1 pound wild American shrimp, peeled, deveined, shells reserved (See Note)
4 Tbsp. of unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup red and green bell peppers, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, mined
2 scallions, diced
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry white wine or sherry
2 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped, reserving juice
2 sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup shrimp stock
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Lola’s Fine Hot Sauce
1 Tbsp. of chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Begin with shrimp stock: Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring constantly, until pink. Add remaining ingredients and sauté for 3 minutes. Add 3 cups water and bring to a simmer. Cook over medium low heat until liquid is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. Strain stock, discarding shells. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill stock and shrimp separately.
Build the creamy polenta: Heat the milk and stock over high heat and bring to a boil watching VERY carefully not to boil over. While whisking rapidly, slowly add the cornmeal to the saucepan; Whisk continuously to avoid lumps. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until the cornmeal begins to pull away from the side of the saucier, about 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add cheese, if desired and Lola’s Fine Hot Sauce.
Meanwhile, prepare the shrimp: Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels. Put them in a shallow bowl, season with salt and pepper or Cajun spice and toss with the flour to coat evenly. In a fry pan over medium high heat, fry the bacon, stirring occasionally, until some fat is rendered and bacon is just beginning to crisp, 6-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain; reserve 2 Tbsp. bacon drippings for garnish. In the same pan, sauté the shrimp in the rendered bacon fat in batches careful to not overcrowd. Sear until almost cooked through, about 1 minute per side. The shrimp will continue to cook in the sauce. Remove shrimp and set aside.
Continue to build the sauce: Return the pan to medium heat, warming the remaining bacon fat and 2 tablespoons butter. Add the diced onion, bell peppers, and jalapeño pepper, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and scallions; cook for 2 minutes. Carefully add the wine (if using) to deglaze the pan. Continue to stir to evaporate some of the wine and scrape up the “fond” that the bacon and shrimp would have left behind. Add the diced Roma tomatoes and juices, fresh thyme sprigs, warm shrimp stock, lemon juice, and Lola’s Fine Hot Sauce. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 8-10 minutes more. Add some of the reserved bacon, shrimp and accumulated juices, and remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Simmer until shrimp are opaque about 3-5 more minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and additional hot pepper sauce, if desired. Discard the thyme springs.
To serve: Divide the “grits” equally between four warmed bowls and top with shrimp. Spoon pan sauce over the shrimp, garnish with bacon and parsley, and serve immediately.
Notes: If time does not allow, substitute the homemade shrimp stock with chicken stock. Feel free to omit the bacon for a piscatorial option, adding in additional butter to sauté the vegetables. To make this gluten free, omit the flour coating on the shrimp. For a faster alternative, serve the shrimp over sautéed greens like spinach or rainbow chard or rice.
If sauce is not thickened to your liking, make a slurry with the seasoned flour leftover from coating the shrimp and softened butter. Stir in bowl, add to saucepan and heat through to thicken.
Cajun seasoning can be made easily.
Cajun Spice Blend
3 Tbsp. smoked paprika
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. thyme
1 Tbsp. oregano
2 Tbsp. seas salt
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
Mix and store in an airtight container for up to three months.
For more recipes, resources and inspiration, Chef Lucie, The Gourmet Goddess, can both be followed on social media or www.gourmetgoddesscuisine.com. Kenyon’s Grist Mill in West Kingston, RI is open 11am - 4pm daily with tours on Saturday and Sunday at 1pm through the winter. Lola’s Fine Hot Sauces are available nationwide.
Todd Corayer is a lifelong fisherman and occasional hunter whose writing benefits from other people’s fish stories while seeing words as puzzle pieces that occasionally all fit together perfectly. You can read more New England fishing reports and stories at www.fishwrapwriter.com.
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