We made a very Valentine’s themed dinner for some friends last week that drew upon some of the recipes we have done in the past, but we added new twists to the mix to keep the dishes fresh and new, and stay in the theme of our romantic dinner. We had an idea of what we wanted to do for our amuse, heart shaped polenta topped with a bacon wrapped scallops and bacon wrapped shrimp. The men would get the shrimp, the women would get the scallop, and of course, sharing a bit with your mate was highly encouraged.
I did add a twist to this at the end and will give a shout out to my friend Juleann for the inspiration to add maple to our polenta hearts, which then led to maple-bourbon scallops and shrimp. I had done the bourbon-maple scallops a few times, but had never wrapped the scallop in bacon. I think we have now created the perfect bite…maple, bourbon, bacon, scallop and creamy polenta….life is indeed good.
Ingredients for the polenta:
I would recommend making the polenta the day before to allow it to fully set up.
1 cup polenta
3 1/2 cups good chicken stock (like Cento)
1/2 parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon pepper
If you use low sodium stock you will need to add some extra salt, season to your taste.
1/4 cup maple syrup
In a stock pot heat the chicken stock to a low boil. Whisk in the polenta, cheese, herbs and spices. Continue whisking until the polenta begins to get denser, then stir with a wooden spoon. Quick cooking polenta will take a short time to cook. Continue stirring until the polenta has set up. Turn off heat and let cool slightly, then pour out and spread to about 1 inch thickness on a baking sheet to cool the polenta. Cool overnight. When ready to cut into hearts (or any other shape) flip the polenta out on a board and the cut to the desired shape. Some people then coat the polenta in flour and fry it. We just brushed it with maple syrup a few times prior to baking, throughout the day, allowing the syrup to soak into the polenta. When ready to serve broil for about 3-4 minutes, reheating the polenta and helping the syrup caramelize. When you remove from the oven give it about 5 minutes to cool and reset up.
Ingredients for the shrimp and scallops:
We had 10 at our dinner party, so this is enough for 10 individual servings.
5 extra large scallops
5 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
5 pieces of applewood smoked bacon, cut in half
for the marinade:
1/2 cup bourbon
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon cracked pepper
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
Marinade the seafood for at least 1 1/2 hours prior to wrapping with the bacon and cooking. Whisk all the ingredients in the marinade together in a small bowl and add the seafood. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Give the seafood a stir every 20 minutes or so. When ready to cook pre-heat the oven to broil. Remove each shrimp and scallop from the marinade and wrap with 1/2 piece of bacon, with the seam down. Place each piece on baking sheet. Discard marinade. Broil the seafood for about 7-10 minutes until the shrimp are bright pink and curled. Serve on top of a bit of fresh microgreens dressed with lemon juice and a bit of oil, on top of each polenta heart.