This cheesy polenta and shrimp will take your holiday entertaining up a notch! It’s an easy recipe made with Cache Valley® Four Cheese Mexican. It will make any dinner guest ask for more.
This post has been sponsored by Dairy Farmers of America. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
We are entering holiday season and if you are like me, you will either be hosting or attending several dinners and lunches for each holiday.
And although I absolutely love traditional fare at holiday dinners, I am also a fan of having a variety of dishes so that we are not eating turkey or ham for a month.
That is why I love to include easy recipes on my end-of-the-year menu that are full of wholesome goodness and creaminess – exactly like holiday comfort food should be.
This cheesy polenta and shrimp recipe is the type of dish that you feel good serving to your guests and to your family during the holidays. And I caution you to make extra, because your guests will be asking for seconds!
Not only is it wholesome and velvety – it’s cheesy. It’s made with Cache Valley® Four Cheese Mexican and paired with a Mexican-inspired spicy shrimp with tomatoes.
Cache Valley Four Cheese Mexican just elevates this dish up to a new level. It provides so much creaminess!
The perfect blend of cheddar, Monterey jack, asadero and quesadilla cheese just melt so easily into the polenta, balancing out the acidity of the tomato sauce in the shrimp with just the right amount of creaminess and saltiness.
I chose to use Cache Valley Four Cheese Mexican in this recipe, because just tasting it you can tell it’s really high quality. It’s rich, melts in your mouth, and tastes so good! When cooked, it melts easily, because it is made with real, wholesome milk, and it’s gooey, just like melted cheese should be!
If you can’t tell it already, let me make it clear that I think cheese makes any dish better! Specially, premium quality cheese like Cache Valley!
And if you love cheese as much as I do, check out my Instant Pot Cheesy Potatoes recipe. It is super fast and the also uses Cache Valley Cheeses.
By the way, Cache Valley® Four Cheese Mexican is available at your local Safeway (at the dairy aisle).
Besides the Four Cheese Mexican, Cache Valley® offers several other cheeses and butter. Their products are made right next to Colorado in Northern Utah!
I love supporting farmers because my in-laws raise cattle and we love spending time on the farm.
When I first got married, I spent a lot of time out in the pasture. I learned so much about how our food is grown and raised. It had a huge impact on how I approach cooking and eating.
That is also why I love shopping at Safeway. I always find fresh, high quality products in their stores. Additionally, as a business, Safeway is heavily involved in the local community. A big plus in my book!
How to Cook Cheesy Polenta and Shrimp
This cheesy polenta and shrimp is very simple to make. I used high quality products, that are nutritious and made with real ingredients. It only takes 55 mins to cook and your family will love it!
What is Polenta?
Polenta is a traditional Italian dish made of ground cornmeal. It’s coarse, yellow and can be cooked as a porridge, baked or fried.
There are so many names for it- cornmeal, corn grits, polenta, grits- which confuses a lot of people.
The main thing you need to know is that it’s not the fine cornmeal that we use to make cornbread.
How to cook polenta?
I used three cups of liquid to one cup of polenta for this recipe. However, for the best results, always look at the manufacturer instructions.
You can cook polenta with water but if you want creamier polenta, then use whole milk dairy products. (see instructions below)
There are two things you should definitely do while cooking polenta.
- Whisk it while it cooks to avoid lumps and,
- Cook it in a deep pan to avoid splashes. The polenta bubbles and pops and can burn your skin if you cook it in a shallow pan.
How to make creamy polenta ?
Butter, whole milk, or cream and Cache Valley Cheese Shreds are your best friends when making creamy and cheesy polenta.
Adding the right amount of liquid and whisking it throughout the cooking process, will make the polenta smooth and soft, not lumpy and grainy.
Can I reheat polenta?
YES! It is super easy – just mix in a little bit of milk and reheat it.
Polenta vs. Grits
There is a lot of confusion on the difference between polenta and grits. Some people believe they are the same thing but if you have ever eaten both, you know there are some major differences in texture and taste.
Both polenta and grits are stone ground cornmeal. However, they are made from different types of corn. Polenta is more coarse and yellow, and grits are more fine and white.
I like polenta better because of the more wholesome texture and taste. However, I like to stick to regional ingredients, so if I was eating or pairing it with a Southern dish like this Cajun Shrimp and Sausage, I would choose grits.
Cooked or Raw Shrimp?
For most cooking recipes, I prefer to use raw shrimp because shrimp can have a tough and unpleasant texture when it is overcooked.
Fresh or Frozen Shrimp?
If I was still living by the sea, my answer would obviously be fresh. However, I live in landlocked Colorado, so finding fresh seafood is a struggle.
Additionally, frozen shrimp is really convenient as you can cook whenever you need it.
How to cook frozen shrimp?
There are several ways to cook frozen shrimp.
- Cook frozen shrimp straight from the bag.
- Quick defrost it in cold water before cooking. Simply place the frozen shrimp in a large bowl and add cold water to it. Let it sit for 15-20 mins and rinse (my preferred method).
- Thaw shrimp overnight in the fridge.
The quick defrost is my preferred method to cook with frozen shrimp.
This method allows me to remove little pieces of shell that sometimes are frozen with the shrimp, clean any that have not been deveined and also season it better.
If you buy frozen shrimp that still has shell and tail attached, you will need to defrost before cooking it for this recipe.
If you haven’t cooked with shrimp before, it will be soft and grey when raw and defrosted. It will also look somewhat straight. You want to make sure that shells, tails, and feet are removed before you cook this recipe.
When the shrimp is cooked, it will curl up and become firm and pink. It’s important that you do not overcook the shrimp as it can become tough.
Cheesy Polenta and Shrimp Recipe
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 medium yellow onion diced small
- 2 large cloves of garlic minced
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or 1/4 jalapeno pepper minced and seeded (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tbsps tomato paste
- 3 roma tomatoes diced
- 1 cup vegetable or seafood broth
- 2 lb small raw frozen or fresh shrimp cleaned, shelled, deveined and thawed
- 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
- 5 cups water
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cup polenta/ corn grits/ coarse cornmeal
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cup Cache Valley® Four Cheese Mexican (8oz)
- 3 tbsps salted butter
- In a deep cooking pan, over medium heat, warm up the olive oil. Add onions and garlic and saute until it is translucent (about 5 mins).
- Add cumin, paprika, salt, cayenne pepper and tomato paste and stir. Add chopped tomatoes and jalapenos and cover skillet with lid and cook for 5 minutes to let the flavors mix.
- Add broth, stir it and cover with lid. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add shrimp and stir. Cover with lid and cook for 10-15 minutes or until shrimp is no longer grey – it should look a light pink/salmon color.
- Add cilantro and mix. Remove from heat.
- Boil the water and salt.
- Reduce the heat. Pour the polenta in gradually while whisking. Continue whisking until polenta is a thick paste and water is absorbed by the corn grits.
- Add heavy cream, butter, black pepper and Cache Valley® Four Cheese Mexican and continue to whisk until smooth and the cream is absorbed.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
To serve this recipe, plate the polenta and form a little mound in the middle. Place shrimp on top and sprinkle with cilantro or extra cheese. Enjoy it!
What recipe should I make next?