When I was young, every Saturday my mother took us visiting. After stopping to see her sisters, Fran in West Orange and Chick in Vailsburg, we were off to my father's sister, Angelina, in Newark.
Food memories from visiting my Aunt Angie include stopping for just out-of-the oven Italian bread from Paramount Bakery on Davenport Avenue, Neapolitan ice cream blocks (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) on crisp waffle crackers or icebox cake (chocolate pudding and graham crackers). One Saturday we were in her pantry when I spotted a well-worn wooden board. My aunt said that my grandmother Giuseppina used this to serve polenta topped red gravy and sausage. My aunt said my grandmother also made polenta in a black cast iron frying pan, cut it up, fry it and served with escarole and beans instead of bread.
With enough coaxing, we convinced her to make polenta. On top of the polenta my aunt dressed it with red gravy and sausage, just like her mother did. Back then it didn't impress me much. Fast forward fifty plus years and polenta is culinary delight.
In the New York Times Food section on Wednesday, March 7th, David Tanis created a dish called Shrimp with Hot Fennel Sausage and Polenta. So this evening, I made this dish. The ingredients needed include cornmeal (I went old school rather than seeking out polenta), shrimp, hot Italian sausage (I used mild turkey sausage), tomato puree, crème fraîche (I made my own), scallions, chopped capers, parsley and lemon zest. From start to finish the recipe takes about one hour.
Rather than follow Mr. Tanis' recipe for making polenta, I followed one from the website Serious Eats posted by Daniel Gritzer. His explanation of the cornmeal to water ratio made sense. After eating this polenta tonight, he was right, it was creamy and delicious.
I first started by making my polenta, which had to cook for at least fifty minutes. Next, I cleaned and prepped my shrimp for sautéing, chopped an onion and portioned out other ingredients. I only needed two pans for tonight's supper, a chopping board, and a few bowls to have ingredients at the ready. The shrimp/sausage sauce came together quite quickly.
Well, my supper tonight was a hit. The parsley, lemon zest, scallion and capers gave the dish freshness. The red pepper flakes a bit of heat to the sauce and the sausage and shrimp a contrast in textures and taste. As the polenta was made with water, it was creamy, but yet not heavy and overly filling on the stomach. A new recipe for the repertoire!
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A former teacher, shop-a-holic, empty-nester redefining quick, family approved dinners.