My fridge is rather empty at the moment, and so is my stomach. It’s been a long day at work so the last thing I want to do is head to the store. Time to be resourceful! Aside from some staple items, I’ve got scallions, a tomato, corn, a leek, cornmeal, and some frozen raw shrimp I had left over from a few days ago. A shrimp etoufee comes to mind with a crispy polenta cake.
For the polenta, heat one cup of chicken stock and half a cup of milk. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Once it comes up to a boil reduce the heat and slowly whisk in half a cup of yellow cornmeal. Once the mixture starts to thicken, switch to a wooden spoon and stir constantly until the cornmeal is cooked. The mixture should be creamy, but not too loose as it will need to cool and set. Add more liquid if necessary. Adjust seasoning, stir in a pat of butter, pour into a square container into a smooth layer about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick and cool.
Peal and devein the shrimp, reserving the heads and peals. Leave some heads on for presentation. Coat a saucepan with olive oil and cook the heads and peals until they turn orange, a couple of minutes. Add a cup of chicken stock or water, a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. I threw in some onion scraps as well. Strain the shrimp stock.
Season the shrimp with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, a pinch of cayenne, salt and fresh ground pepper. Heat some olive oil in a saute pan. Cook the shrimp for about 3 minutes. Remove from the pan. Add a pat of butter to the pan and sweat diced onions, leeks, celery, and minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Once they’ve softened add a tablespoon of flour. Stir for a minute to cook out the raw flour taste. Add the reserved shrimp stock, diced tomato and corn. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
Meanwhile remove the polenta from the square container and cut into squares. Pan fry or deep fry them until golden and crispy on all sides. Cut the shrimp into bite size pieces and add to the etoufee along with sliced scallion greens. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add a pinch of cayenne for a little heat. Serve etoufee over the crispy polenta squares with a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. With just a little creativity and resourcefulness, you can make a quick and delicious meal out of almost nothing!