Polenta, grits, cornmeal – whatever you choose to call it, there’s a severely underused ingredient lurking in your pantry that’s kicking back, patiently waiting to be infused with just about anything you dare to throw at it. And once you discover it, there will be no more putting that polenta baby in the corner.

This stovetop cheesy polenta with smoky bacon and shrimp is exactly the kind of deceivingly easy meal you pull out for company, acting like it didn’t come together with any more effort than a few strong-armed stirs of the pot and some well-timed fry action.

The good news is that this dish is just as good meatless: Try it topped with sauteed tomatoes, spinach and a fried egg. Because, let’s face it, a fried egg makes everything better.

Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Serves: 4

888_Grits_Shrimp_polenta

Ingredients:

For the polenta:
4 cups water
1 cup polenta
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Salt

For the shrimp:
12 raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp lemon juice

For the spinach and tomato sauté:
2 cups, spinach
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 glove garlic, minced
Olive oil
4 fried eggs
Kosher salt, cracked black pepper
Tobasco sauce

888_Grits_Polenta_Tomatoes

Directions:

For the polenta and shrimp:
1. Bring water to a boil and add salt. Slowly whisk in polenta and cook, stirring frequently for 20 minutes, adding more water if it looks too thick. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.
2. In a large skillet, fry the bacon until browned. Set on paper towel to drain. Cook shrimp in bacon grease until they turn pink, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, green onions, parsley and cooked bacon, and sprinkle with lemon juice. Sauté for 3 minutes.
3. Ladle polenta into individual bowls and top with shrimp and bacon mixture. Serve immediately.

For the spinach and tomato sauté:
1. Heat olive oil a large skillet and add tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and cook until they begin to release their juices, about 3 minutes.
2. Add minced garlic and spinach. Stir and cover, letting the mixture simmer until spinach is wilted, about 3-5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, fry eggs in screaming hot olive oil until preferred doneness. Set aside.
4. Ladle polenta into individual bowls and top with spinach and tomato mixture. Add fried egg and hot sauce, and serve immediately.

BonnieMo Bonnie Mo is a Toronto-based editor and the face behind Food Network Canada’s 1 Dish, 2 Ways column. She’s also a contributing editor over at slice.ca. For more recipe ideas, visit bonniemo.ca, or catch her on Instagram @bonniemo