The Goodbye Girl

It was the final countdown for daughter Julia. She, and her French bulldog Bentley had been staying with us for the better part of 2 1/2 months. But now it was time to spread her wings once again and relocate to LA, a place she lived four years ago, but had never gotten out of her system.

Julia, an enthusiastic recipient of many of our home cooked meals, exclaimed this last “good-bye” dinner, Sautéed Shrimp and Pancetta with Cheesy Polenta, was “probably the best I’ve had” since moving back in. A close second was the Best Ever Turkey Burgers, but that was another blog…

Her father and I were in full agreement. As simple as it was, the meal is truly impressive. Now of course, I made some alterations. It was originally supposed to be served over grits—not necessarily one of my faves. Our substitute was instant polenta, but mixed with homemade chicken stock, an instant flavor enhancer.

I also included the entire green pepper (why just half?), an extra garlic clove, and switched out fresh chives in place of the parsley in the final step. Oh, and I’m pretty positive that I sprinkled on a bit more cayenne than what was suggested, but that’s just how I roll—use your own judgement there. (All of these changes are noted in the recipe below.)

Goodbye Girl, and Mr. Bentley. We shall miss you both. But you can always take a walk down memory lane when reading this blog and remembering all of those delicious meals—and desserts!


Sautéed Shrimp and Pancetta with Cheesy Polenta

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 leeks (white and light-green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced, and rinsed
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-1/2 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
  • 1 cup quick-cooking polenta
  • 4 oz. extra-sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 oz. 1/8-inch-thick sliced pancetta, cut into 1/8 x1-inch strips
  • 1-1/2 lb. jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh chives


  1. In a heavy-duty 4- to 5-quart pot, heat 2 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and 1/4 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add the chicken broth and 1/2 tsp. salt, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat.
  4. Whisk in the polenta, return to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook, partially covered, stirring frequently, until the broth has been absorbed and the polenta  is thick, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the cheese and stir to melt. Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove from the heat, cover,  and keep warm.
  6. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook the pancetta in the remaining 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden and starting to crisp, about 5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, pat the shrimp dry and put them in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the cayenne and 1/4 tsp. black pepper and toss to combine.
  8. Add the green pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
  9. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until pink and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the chives.
  10. Distribute the polenta among 4 shallow bowls and serve the shrimp mixture over it.

Adapted from a recipe by Nadia Arumugam from Fine Cooking

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