Moroccan Spiced Shrimp with Polenta Cakes

Moroccan Spiced Shrimp with Polenta Cakes

Moroccan Spiced Shrimp and Polenta Cakes

Fat Tuesday and Valentine’s Day… all in one week.   Boy, did those two events sneak up on me.

Feeling like “Last Minute Karista”, I quickly planned my week’s menu and raced off to the market yesterday morning before the Andouille sausage could sell out.

I know you’re wondering how Andouille sausage could ever possibly sell out here in Seattle.  I thought the same thing last year around Fat Tuesday.  I’m sure I dug through every type of sausage in my market’s meat cooler before asking where they hid the Andouille.  That’s when Mr. Meat Cutter told me my favorite brand of Andouille  sausage was sold out.  God help the Gumbo!  It just wasn’t the same without my favorite Andouille.

As I walked into the market, I grabbed my food cart and power walked  to the back of the store.  I opened the cooler door and there sat the last two packages of my beloved sausage.  Phew!  Fat Tuesday will be a success.  The last ingredient to purchase was crawfish.   Of course, there would surely be lots of crawfish because who in Seattle eats crawfish.  Right?

Behold devastation.  My fish market was completely cleaned out of crawfish.

Moroccan Shrimp with Polenta Cakes

Moroccan Shrimp with Polenta Cakes

I can only imagine the look on my face as the two young fishmongers were wide-eyed and speechless.  I’m sure they were both wondering if I was going to have a meltdown in the fish market.  They tried desperately to make me feel better and promised more crawfish tails would be arriving soon.  In the meantime one of the fishmongers asked me if I could substitute.  Substitute? Normally I’m all over subbing, but this is Fat Tuesday dinner we’re talking about.  One. Must. Have. Crawfish.

I quickly re-gained my composure and thanked the courteous young fishmonger for his help.  Feeling badly that I could hardly speak because they sold out of crawfish, I purchased fresh Gulf shrimp and my favorite Ahi Poke.

Home with my purchases, I was now stocked with fresh produce, Andouille sausage, Ahi Poke and fresh Gulf shrimp.  So what to do with that beautiful fresh shrimp?

I remembered a Moroccan shrimp recipe from Claudia Roden’s Middle Eastern Cuisine cookbook I wanted to try, and hoped I had all the ingredients on hand.  I didn’t.  But I’m an expert at subbing (unless it’s crawfish) and winged the recipe a bit.

Score! This is now one of Ranger Craig’s favorite shrimp dishes, besides the shrimp taco’s of course.  A rich and spicy sauce glazing the flavorful Gulf shrimp and served on polenta cakes .

A delicious dish that is filled with enticing and fragrant flavors.  The perfect recipe for a spicy Valentine dinner. 🙂

Moroccan Shrimp with Polenta Cakes

Serves 2-4

This dish is also great as an appetizer.  Serve one shrimp on a mini polenta cake, trimmed with a small cookie cutter.


1 lb large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

2-4 tablespoons clarified butter or high heat oil

Salt and pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon Harissa (a hot or spicy chili paste used in North African cooking.  It can be purchased at most markets, Whole Foods or a Gourmet specialty store, or you can make it at home.  If you don’t have Harissa or don’t have time to make it substitute with Thai Kitchen Roasted Red Chili Paste, a splash of Sriracha or pinch of red pepper flakes or Cayenne pepper.

1 cup tomato sauce

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

Quick cook polenta


Prepare the quick cook polenta to package directions.  I like to add a little grated parmesan to my polenta and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Pour the polenta into a baking dish and let it cool.  Once cooled, cut out rounds of polenta with a 3″ cookie cutter.  Heat a little oil in a saute pan and pan sear each side of the polenta cakes, making them a little crispy on the outside.  Place on a paper towel to cool.

Mix together the paprika, cumin, ground ginger and minced garlic and Harissa with a splash of olive oil.  Set aside.  Mix the water with the tomato sauce.

In  large skillet over medium high heat add the clarified butter.  Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper and when the butter is hot, pan sear the shrimp on both sides.  You may need to do this in batches.

When each side is nicely golden brown and the shrimp are opaque, take the skillet off the heat and toss with the garlic and spice mixture.  Mix in the tomato sauce and then place the skillet back over medium heat just for a few minutes to let the sauce coat the shrimp.

Place a polenta round on a plate and top with shrimp.  Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve immediately.

For family style service, pour the quick cook polenta onto a platter.  No need to cut out and pan sear.  When the shrimp is done, ladle the shrimp and sauce over the polenta and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.  Serve immediately.



  1. Looks like a great dish. I love polenta and the shrimp filled in nicely for the crawfish. I’m struggling with shrimp right now. Just ate a bag of farmed shrimp from Vietnam- then read about it. Bleck…
    Posted on FB the Seafood Watch Link. USA shrimp is much better. It is a sad scene what we are doing to nature.
    ok – don’t mean to be a debbie downer…
    Hope you are enjoying a little sunshine in Seattle 🙂 x wendy

  2. I love the spices on this, how beautiful! And the plating is just making my mouth water even more 🙂

  3. This dish looks A-mazing!! Yum!

  4. What a rollercoaster shopping trip! There’s only one place I know in Toronto where I can buy Andouille sausage and sometimes after making the effort to go there . . . alas they are sold out. So, I know exactly how you feel. Besides there’s not really a good substitute either. Now I’m curious about your jumbo, which I’m assuming the crawfish were for? Anyway, your moroccan shrimp dish looks lovely and flavourful with the harissa and paprika!

  5. I so enjoyed your story of you market adventure. I panic each year when I try to by black eyed peas in New England. I bought the very last box of frozen peas this year to cook for good luck on New Year’s Day. The Moroccan shrimp sound terrific, especially served on top of the polenta cakes. Happy Valentine’s Day…I hope you enjoy it.

    • 🙂 Thanks Karen! Oh yes, finding black eyed peas in New England may not be the easiest of tasks. So glad you found the last box. Isn’t that such a nice surprise when that happens. Always makes me feel a little lucky. 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Day to you too Karen.

  6. It’s been a long time since I had shrimp.. I might just get some to try this recipe! 🙂

    • I like shrimp but it’s not something I love to eat. Except in tacos. But I did love this recipe. The sauce coating the shrimp truly enhanced the flavor of the shrimp. And using fresh Gulf shrimp always helps with flavor. Nothing worse than flavorless shrimp. Thanks for stopping by Bryan!

  7. Happy Valentines Day! Happy Fat Tuesday! I love making subsitutions as this is how some of the best recipes are created. However you are the sauce guru so matter if you put your sauce on crawfish, shrimp or any seafood it is going to taste great. Take care, BAM

  8. I just love the look of these shrimp…way better than crawfish anything (I can say that now that Fat Tuesday is over!) and the color is amazing. They do look very Valentine’s Day friendly. Hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day, Karista!

    • Hahaha! I do love crawfish etouffee and crawfish in my gumbo. The shrimp did turn out nicely and thankfully the family loved it. Happy Valentine’s Day Betsy!

  9. Love this market shopping story! You’ve got to make due with what’s available right?! 😉 Loving the spices in this creation and those polenta cakes sound just perfect. Gorgeous Karista!

  10. A delicious example of how to compromise on ingredients but not flavour. I was chuckling a little when I read Fat Tuesday, which is of course in the lead up to Lent as I read on your link. Surprisingly enough, Mardi Gras is a different kind of event here, not dissimilar to New Orleans and scantily clad (and brilliant) costumes. Lol!

    I love polenta aka grits and fluffy fried cakes are one of the truly tastiest ways to indulge too.

    • I had no idea Austrailia had their version of Mardi Gras. 🙂 I lived in Lousiana a short while and enjoyed every minute. It was BK (before kids) and Ranger Craig and I found ourselves in New Orleans almost every weekend. Lots of festivals, food events and just fun to sit around at Cafe DuMonde and people watch. LOL!
      Ah yes, the grits disguised as polenta. I grew up on grits so when I first tasted polenta I thought I’d been served a dish of grits by mistake. Love them both and I’d eat them everyday if I could. Happy Wednesday to you Alli!!

  11. Ooo, that looks sooo good! Polenta is one of my favorites, should eat it more often!

  12. This is so savory and flavorful and all through the great color in the final dish. Talk about a mouthful of flavor in each bite. I’ve never used Harissa before so now I’m curious to see what it taste like… 🙂 Have a great week!

    • Thanks Danny! I know once you try Harissa you’ll be hooked. It has such amazing complexity in flavor. I purchase mine but it can be easily prepared at home. I often find myself adding it to all sorts of things. Even my scrambled eggs. LOL!

  13. Gorgeous! We tend to skip Valentine’s Day though 😀 – we’re going to see Shakespeare’s Richard III this year, which is hardly a barrel of laughs… 😀 – ‘Now is the winter of our discontent’ and all that…

    • Thanks Frugal. Hahaha! You keep me in stitches. I love Shakespeare, what a lovely way to celebrate the season. Ranger Craig and I are going to see an Agatha Christie play. I love British mysteries!

  14. What a beautiful looking and tasty sounding dish!

  15. This looks delicious. As my husband doesn’t like seafood I will have to continue the substitutions and go with a different protein!

  16. Keep love Moroccan food, and this sounds delicious. Valentines day has snuck up on Dave as well 🙂

  17. I am making this dish Karista – I have been on a shrimp kick lately and I love these flavors!

    • I’m not a huge shrimp fan but I’ve sort of been on the shrimp kick lately too. I do love this dish. The sauce is so delicious and coats the shrimp nicely.

  18. What a great way to use shrimp. Hubby and I eat a lot of it and I’m always on the lookout for a new way to prepare it.

  19. I can’t wait to try this, Karista. Your Barbecue Shrimp with Sweet Potato Polenta is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I’ll be glad to add this to mix! It’s so pretty too!

    • Thanks Jess! I do love the barbecue shrimp and sweet potato polenta as well. I could eat polenta everyday! Hope you enjoy this dish, it can be spicy, especially if too much Harissa is added but really flavorful on the shrimp. Have a lovely week!

  20. Looks so delicious Karista. Wish I could have some right now.. What is your favorite brand of Andouille? I’ve only bought from Fischers, but I bet yours is better! They might have some crawfish at the fishmonger there as well!

    • I love Uli’s Sausages. They’re made here in Seattle and so unbelievably delicious. I use their chorizo often and their andouille is just as good. PCC and Whole Foods carries them, not sure about Safeway or QFC. I do like Fischer’s sausages, but Uli’s has more flavor and less spicy.

  21. The shrimp looks delicious!


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