A Quick & Easy Dinner with Comfort
This week, Katie and I spoke with Jane from Jane’s Adventures in Dinner about Quick and Easy Dinners (here’s the video!). In honor of our chat here is one of my favorite quick and easy dinner recipes, with a little explanation about why it’s the perfect meal for an imperfect day.
Some days I don’t want to cook. The house is a mess, the kids are cranky, and well, I’m pretty darned cranky too. On those days, if I manage to resist the lure of 1-800-PIZZA, I need something warm and soft. Something with cheese. Something to make the effort worthwhile.
Comfort is in order. But it sure as heck better not take more than 30 minutes to make!
This quick and easy dinner can be ready in 20 minutes if I run around like a fool. But if I’m making this dish it means that I’m zapped of energy. So count on zero instances of foolish running and 25 minutes until dinner time.
O.K., so comfort and make it quick: The dinner is based on the idea of shrimp and grits except I sub in polenta for the grits. Why? Because, not being a true Southerner, polenta is more familiar to me.
To make this quick and easy dinner a healthy choice for my family, I top the polenta with some quickly sautéed asparagus and some shrimp that have been seasoned with cumin and a pinch of cayenne.
Adding a final zing, cutting the richness of the polenta and wedding it to the asparagus and shrimp is a final squeeze of lemon. (Note: the lemon is not a garnish. It is essential.)
Easy, quick, fresh, healthy, tasty and, most important, comforting. Shrimp and Cheddar Polenta with Asparagus is a perfect meal for an otherwise imperfect weeknight.
- 4 and ½ cups unsalted chicken broth (or use half water and half broth)
- 1 lb of peeled, deveined, tail-on medium or large shrimp
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1 lb asparagus
- 6 oz aged cheddar cheese
- 1 and ½ cups coarsely ground yellow cornmeal
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- ½ of a lemon cut into 4 wedges
- Pour the broth (or broth and water) into a large saucepan. Add ½ teaspoon of salt. Cover the pot and bring the broth to a boil over high heat.
- While the liquid is coming to a boil, in a medium bowl combine the cumin and cayenne. Add the shrimp and toss to evenly coat them in the seasoning.
- Trim the tough ends off of the asparagus and cut them into 2 inch pieces. Grate the cheese.
- Once the liquid has boiled, remove the pot from the heat. Start whisking as you add the cornmeal in a slow stream (the continuous whisking and slow-streaming prevents clumping). Put the pot over medium heat and stir until it comes to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and stir often for 5 minutes, until the polenta is thickened and has had a chance to cook. Remove from the heat. Add the cheddar and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Stir until it is thoroughly combined. Taste. I find that it usually needs about ¼ teaspoon more salt. Cover the pot and set it aside.
- Fill a kettle with water and put it on to boil.
- Warm the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. A moment after it has completely melted, add the asparagus and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Stir and cook until the asparagus turns bright green, 1-2 minutes. Add the shrimp. Stir and cook until the shrimp have turned pink all over, 3-5 minutes. Transfer the shrimp and asparagus to a serving bowl.
- Give your polenta a stir. If it’s gotten really thick or has begun to set add ¼ cup boiling water. Stir. Add a drizzle at a time, stirring after each addition until it back to a soft creamy texture.
- Scoop polenta onto plates, top with the shrimp and asparagus and give everyone a wedge of lemon to squeeze over their plates. Mmmmm…so good. So comforting. And you’d never know that it was such a quick and easy dinner.