The strange realization came to both Frank and I this past weekend that we are halfway through his job contract that brought us to Thailand. Along with this realization came something akin to that feeling I get on Wednesdays – a sort of dwindling of momentum at the midway point to the week. The same thing seems to be happening for me with the knowledge that just as 14 months in Thailand are behind us, we have 14 months still ahead. We have reached the summit. It means, of course, that we are at the best vantage point from which to reflect on how far we’ve come while plotting the best course for the journey back down.
Reaching this halfway point has been a reminder to start thinking about how to use these coming months. Where will we travel? What must we cross off our Bangkok experience list before we leave? The possibilities are endless, and I suspect that no matter what we do, this time might feel as if it slips right through our fingers.
From here, the summit of our Thailand adventure, I also find myself thinking about my home and the things I have missed in this time. Whereas I craved the flavor and spice of Thai food all the time back in the U.S., I now often crave all-American comfort foods. (I should add, however, that I still crave Thai food. If I’ve learned anything in 14 months, it’s that I will never tire of this cuisine). It is with thoughts of home that I came across Karista’s southern-inspired variation on shrimp and grits and knew it had to be on our dinner table – stat.
Although this recipe is in no way the conventional shrimp and grits so often served in the South, it is an updated take with a creamy base and sweet/spicy oven-baked shrimp over top. The shrimp are fantastic, but the polenta served beneath them is flavored with cheese and mashed sweet potato. It is easy and addictive, and though our sweet potatoes are white here in Bangkok, if you have the orange variety where you live, you will get the added bonus of a beautiful orange color in the finished polenta.
With 14 months in Bangkok still to go you can be sure that there will be plenty of Thai food in my future, but back in our Bangkok apartment, I’m loving that these sorts of dishes from “home” are gracing our dinner table.
Oven Barbecue Shrimp with Sweet Potato Polenta
- 2 lbs Gulf Shrimp (16-20 count), peeled with tail on and deveined
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- ¼ cup chili sauce (tomato-based, North-American style)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1-2 teaspoons Sriracha (Asian Hot Sauce)
- 1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- Sweet potato polenta, for serving (recipe below)
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
- In a large bowl whisk together the butter, chili sauce, Worcestershire, lemon juice, Sriracha and smoked paprika. Toss in the shrimp in the sauce and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Lightly oil a large baking dish and pour the shrimp with sauce into the baking dish. Spread out the shrimp into a single layer.
- Bake the shrimp for about 8-10 minutes and just before the shrimp are done turn on the broil and slightly brown the shrimp. Watch the shrimp carefully or they’ll burn. (yes, I did this)
- Spoon the sweet potato polenta onto a platter or large bowl and pour the shrimp over the polenta.
- Sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme and serve hot.
Recipe adapted just a tad from Karista's Kitchen.
Sweet Potato Polenta
- 1 cup quick cook polenta
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup whole milk
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
- 1 cup mashed, baked sweet potato
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- On medium heat, bring the liquid to a slight boil. Add the polenta and cook for a few minutes until it begins to thicken. Take the polenta off the heat and stir in the cheese and mashed sweet potato.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.On medium heat, bring the liquid to a slight boil. Add the polenta and cook for a few minutes until it begins to thicken. Take the polenta off the heat and stir in the cheese and mashed sweet potato.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.