Thursday, October 7, 2010

Blackened Shrimp on Red Pepper Polenta with Spicy Fennel & Shallot Jam

Don't you just love finding a new concept... Like a savory jam.

My mind is reeling with the possibilities.  I have already started to toy with the possibilities, and youw ill be seeing more of this type of accent.

With a special thanks to Chef Cathy at the Showfood Chef blog.  Her original post and recipe (click HERE) served as my inspiration for this dish.  I made a few adjustments in the quantities, but this is mostly hers... 

There are three parts to this dish (Which I served as my fish course for my 7 course dinner).  The blackened Prawns (fancy dinner, needs a fancy name... Prawns are shrimp, but just sound a bit fancier) resting on a bed of savory jam, with a Polenta base.  Let's deconstruct in order of difficulty...

Blackened Shrimp...

Spice Mixes I Love!The Blackened Shrimp is very simple.  I have covered blackening technique before and often.  I LOVE the taste.  All you need is a skillet, butter and Cajun Spice mix.  Of course, I use my own blend, "Big Easy in a Jar" Cajun Mix.  It's a no salt mix filled with spice and color.  Go ahead and click the photo if you like the idea of making your own spice/herb mixes and controlling your salt intake.  

But, of course, a commercially available mix works in this recipe.

OK, back to the "recipe" (more of a technique than a recipe, but I digress).  These shrimp are the last items to make for the dish.  the base and jam can be made in advance, but the shrimp should be made just prior to serving.  It only takes 3-4 minutes to blacken the shrimp, so easily done while still entertaining.

Here's the technique.  I use frozen, large pre-cooked shrimp.  Thaw them completely.  I was making a dozen shrimp, used 3 TBS of butter.  Heat the butter over medium high heat until it just starts to brown and small whisps of smoke appear.  Add 1 TBS of "Big Easy in a Jar" spice per TBS of butter (in this case, 3 TBS of "Big Easy in a Jar" spice).  Again, you are going to get the spices cooking.  Medium high heat, again, until the spices and butter start to smoke.  Add the shrimp and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  The shrimp cook fast, since I am using pre-cooked shrimp, all I am doing is reheating and coating with the buttery spice.

Serve immediately. 

Red Pepper Polenta...

But before you can serve immediately, you have to make the base of polenta.  I made this in advance, about 1 1/2 hours before serving.  It stayed warm in the oven (set at 175 degrees) just fine.

2 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
1 cup Corn Polenta
1/2 cup Roasted Sweet Peppers (char roast, peel/seed and chop)
1 Tbls. Butter

  • Heat the stock and the peppers in a sauce pan til simmering. 
  • Sprinkle in the Polenta, a little at a time, stirring constantly to avoid clumping. 
  • Cook on low for about 15 minutes or until creamy. 
  • Take off the heat and stir in butter, salt and pepper to taste.

For my presentation, I used a circle metal mold.  On a heavy ceramic plate, I filled the mold with the cooked polenta.  I had set up a warming station in my oven for the dinner.  I set the temp as low as it would go (between 150 and 175).  Because it was plated on a heavy ceramic plate, by putting the plates in the oven, it accomplished the double duty of plate warmer and keeping the food warm until ready to serve.  To keep the polenta from drying out, I added a pad of butter to the top.

Worked just fine.

Spicy Fennel & Shallot Jam

OK, here's my new discovery (new to me).  And, it was the hit of the party.  Both couples that were invited asked for this recipe.  It was easy to make, and certainly added an unexpected delicious taste to the polenta.  Also, one of the ingredients is very aromatic.  I made this just minutes before guests arrived.  Be careful how you pronounce the ingredient.  But the cooked Anise fills the whole house with an amazing odor (amazing in a very good sense).  The house smells like something amazing is happening.

And it is... Here's what I did...

2 TBS of Fennel Seeds
2 TBS crushed Anise
1/4 cup of Shallot (minced)
1 tsp. Red Pepper flakes
2 TBS. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

  • First, in a mortar, using a passel,  I crushed 4 whole Star Anise (that's the aromatic spice I was talking about.  Pronounce with EEE's in place of the "I", and try not to giggle when you explain the ingredients).
  • Next, slightly crush the Fennel seeds, just enough to open them.  While they cook, the seeds will soften so there is not a "seedy" texture.
  • And, we are ready to cook.  In a sauce pan combine the anise, fennel, shallots and red pepper flakes with 1/2 cup water. 
  • Heat on low to soften the fennel and shallots (for about 10 minutes). 
  • Add the sugar and lemon juice and increase the heat to Med/High. 
  • Stir often and boil til thickened (about 215F, or about 10 minutes.) 
  • Remove from heat and hold. 
  • Refrigerate any un-used jam (good for several weeks.)
And, we are ready to plate...

This was the unexpected HIT of the party!

The fish course was the 4th course in my 7 course dinner...

With more courses to follow this week... We are more than half way through the Party!



  1. Definitely an elegant course.

    I use jam sauces frequently when cooking, it adds a lot of color and flavor.

  2. This recipe just made me a follower. Holy moly this looks amazing!!


  3. Looks excellent Dave! I'm always on the lookout for fresh shrimp recipes. Thanks! :)

  4. This seriously looks like restaurant food!

  5. the idea of a savory jam is TOTALLY catching my eye! I expect to see this dish at a Michelin rated restaurant in the near future.

  6. Wow! That is pretty darn fancy and delicious looking. You are setting the bar too high my friend.

  7. That jam is of the hook. Really. I've been enjoying making my own chutneys to go with roasted meats and this is one I'm looking forward to trying soon. Thanks, Dave!

  8. Thank you so much for your kind comment on my photo at Tomatoes on the Vine. :-) Wow - all of these three recipes sound amazing, but that fennel shallot jam is unbelievable. :-)

  9. Very elegant and it all looks amazing! Love The Big Easy in a Jar and the jam! You are quite the gourmet, cher! Cheers!

  10. Lovign the idea of savoury jams, sounds great and versatile!

  11. Very lovely dish...a must try :) Just the name of the dish makes me hungry...Wonderful 7 course meal you have going here...