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Flounder and Maine Shrimp Roulades in Polenta Cups

Flounder and Maine Shrimp Roulades in Polenta Cups

There was a snowstorm a couple of days ago and when I stopped at my local fish market they apologized for the sparse selection in their display case. "We couldn't get to the Boston wholesale market so all we have is local stuff." Gentlemen: no apology necessary! In the case were more of the fabulous local diver scallops I keep raving about, mussels, clams, oysters, some beautiful little flounder fillets, and a bucketful of the wonderful pink Maine shrimp we get fresh in the winter. I took a pound each of the fillets and the shrimp.

This preparation is the result of my desire to come up with a presentation of the delicate fillets and tiny shrimp that would allow them both to be visible in the finished dish. I have, on occasion, made a wonderful seafood pie (basically a quiche with fruit de mer and herbs) but while it tastes great the seafood isn't really visible when the dish is plated. What I came up with was a distant cousin of the seafood pie: I used the fillets to line little polenta cups, mounded the the shrimp in the middle, and then spooned a tiny bit of egg and cream custard (with some leeks and pancetta added) into the cups to bind it all together.

These little nests of fresh seafood, with leeks and pancetta accents, were a great success. With a salad, a nice crusty baguette and a crisp sauvignon blanc they made a memorable little Maine seafood supper.

Flounder and Maine Shrimp Roulades in Polenta Cups

Makes 6 cups.

3" piece of leek, white parts only, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/8" slices
3 thin slices pancetta, chopped
1 egg
1/2 C heavy cream
1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
salt, hot sauce to taste
30 leaves baby spinach
3 thin baby flounder fillets, skinless (about 6-7" long)
1/2 pound Maine shrimp, peeled (unshelled weight)
6 polenta cups (recipe below)
2 T Parmeggiano Reggiano, shredded

Place a scant teaspoon of olive oil in a small pan and sauté the pancetta until starting to crisp at the edges. Remove to a small bowl. Add the leek slices to the pan and cook a couple of minutes on medium heat, stirring. Remove to the bowl. Add the cheese to the bowl and toss to mix.

Beat the egg with a fork and add the cream and nutmeg. Season to taste.

Line the walls of the polenta cups (still in the muffin tin) with the spinach leaves. Cut each fillet in half lengthwise along the centerline. Form a ring with each fillet and drop one into each polenta cup. Place a teaspoonful of the leek mixture in the bottom of each cup and then fill it with shrimp, mounding them above the top of the fillets. Sprinkle each shrimp mound with salt and then place another pinch of the leek mixture on top of each mound. Spoon the egg mixture over the cups. (The custard will expand while cooking so the cups shouldn't be filled to the brim with the custard mix. There may be some custard mix left over.)

Cover with foil and bake about 30 minutes in a preheated 375º oven, removing the foil after 20 minutes.

Allow the cups to rest about 5 minutes. Run a small, flexible silicon spatula blade around the edges of each cup and then slip the blade under the cup to transfer it to a plate. (See note below.)

Polenta Cups

2-1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
3/4 C "instant" polenta meal (see note below)
2 T butter
2 T Parmeggiano Reggiano, shredded

Bring water to boil, add salt and then stir in the polenta meal. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring. When the polenta is nearly done stir in the butter and cheese.

Butter six cups in a muffin tin. Fill each of the buttered cups about half full with hot polenta and use a teaspoon dipped in olive oil to push the polenta from the center up along the sides of the muffin cups. Chill overnight, covered with plastic wrap.


Flounderpolentacups21. Difficulty warning! The polenta cups, when hot, are very delicate. Removing them to a plate intact is difficult, so keep an open mind about the appearance of the dish. The custard will hold the fish roll together but the walls of the polenta cup may fall around it, which may make the presentation look a bit like a big flower...or like a fish roulade on top of a pile of polenta!  If you want a more uniform presention, consider making the polenta separately, with the fish rolls baked in individual remekins and then unmolded on top of a mound of the polenta (you may need more custard mix if you do it this way). Or forget the polenta altogether and place the fish rolls and custard in blind-baked quiche crusts in the ramekins.

2. Sauce. If you want a sauce for this dish, a reduction (by half) of Red Shrimp Broth, with a little cream added and seasoning corrected, works well.

Flounderpolentacups3_23. Soup. If you have a LOT of Red Shrimp Broth on hand, consider making a soup of the broth by reducing it by about a third and adding some cream and seasoning. Then the polenta cups can be plopped into the soup plate to form an island.

4. Instant polenta. I use the wonderful Roland brand polenta meal, which cooks much faster than the traditional corn meal. I've actually never made polenta with regular corn meal -- if you can't find the Roland product or want to try the traditional way, here's a LINK to an Epicurious recipe.


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What a brilliant idea. Reminds me of the yam or potato baskets in Chinese cuisine. I wonder if a mash potato cup might work too. Perhaps you might need to blind bake it first for it to hold its shape better ...hmmm ... food for thought. Thanks Stephen, another night of food contemplation for me now!

Stephen, please invite me to dinner some time. Just thinking about these gorgeous meals is killing me! I live in California but I know the way to Maine. Seriously!

Love this combination. Great pic and recipe! Miam! Maine shrimps are amongst my favorites. I actually presented 2 recipes with them on my blog because I love them too! And when there are in season, I go and buy huge batches that I freeze for later uses! ;-)
Now I am only in MA, you know, not far from Maine ;-)

Hi Stephen,

What an awesome post! Guess what I made last week -- flounder rolled with with polenta stuffing poached in maine shrimp and cream sauce. Great minds think alike :) I'll have to post that one soon. The problem is that I can cook much faster than I can write, so I have a huge backlog of posts.

I also wanted to thank you for introducing me to rutabaga. I made rutabaga fries over the weekend and loved them! I didn't bother parboiling, just roasted at super high temperature to get them tender and caramelized -- yum! I just posted about them in case you want to see how they came out.


After I complained that we can't get decent shrimp here, now I see them being given away, it's too much! What I have seen though, is English shrimpers catching and processing their catch and turning them into potted shrimp for sale in their own store. Maybe your boats could get together and do something similar, perhaps selling into farmers markets. It is sad to see top quality shrimp that no one wants ~ except the few that know.

Wow, what a fabulous post. Thanks for directing me here. Now I really do have to head out to our largest market with 4 good fishmongers to find some Maine/Matane shrimp.

Hi Stephen,
Awesome site. I came across these shrimps in our local Roche Bros. store and was intrigued by the red color.It was fresh!!! Not previosly frozen!!!I cooked them the way my mom does in an Indian curry style and it came out mmmmm...good.It tasted quite like the fresh catch you get in the Eastern part of India,only a little sweeter.I am sooo glad I bought it.
I will try your recipe next !

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