Sage and Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp

Sean and our very good friend JC met years ago when they both worked in the kitchen of il Mercato on Spring Garden Road (the old location). At the time, JC was the youngest chef to run a Bertossi kitchen - just 22 years old. 

Years later, after Sean and I were engaged, we knew, without a doubt, who we wanted to ask to be Sean's best man at our wedding. 

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Sean and JC at our wedding - photo credit : Mike Tompkins

The first time I met JC, I felt as if we'd already been friends for years. He has a personality that feels like a warm hug, plus, he's super smart and knows a lot of stuff about stuff. He and I bonded over our passion for being creative in the kitchen and I often receive random texts like:

'$2 8oz side order of Canadian back bacon at the market, produced by a local farmer and fried up fresh this morning. Singing to me. And I don't mean that round ham lookin' shit either. Long, leggy, crisp and chewy, glorious back bacon. Maybe it'll actually make it past the line up next week.'

'Molasses cookies, root beer fudge, fresh honey comb, garlic jelly, fresh cheese, artisan sausage, zucchini relish, ammolite necklaces... It's market day in Lethbridge!'

'Friend of ours is flying in for the night tomorrow on her way through town (she's a relaxed vegetarian). To my inquiry "Dinner plans yet? Spag garlic? Shrimp? Lemon, capers, arugula?" I get back "No! OMG YES! ALL OF IT!" Lol, had to share the love. Hope you guys had a great week!'

You can see why I absolutely adore him. In fact, there simply isn't enough space on this blog to tell you how awesome he is.

A few years ago, JC moved to Edmonton (insert sad face here), and when he comes home to visit, he always stays with us. The last time he was home he said, 'Hey guys, I've been making this super easy little appetizer for friends out West and they go nuts for it. Wanna try it?'. We've been making JC's Sage and Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp for every cocktail / dinner party we've hosted ever since.

JC's Sage and Pancetta Wrapped Shrimp

24 shrimp, thawed, patted dry with paper towel

24 leaves fresh sage

24 pieces thinly sliced pancetta

- lay one sage leaf on each shrimp  - wrap each shrimp with one piece of pancetta - grill until pancetta is crispy

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If you watch the video posted at the top, you'll see that Sean likes to gently stretch out each shrimp before wrapping. Also, between the sage and the pancetta, the shrimp have a ton of flavour so we never serve them with dip - they're always one of the first things to go!

Enjoy :)

White Polenta, Porcini-Port Sauce, Gorgonzola, Pancetta Crisp

I still remember the best polenta I've ever eaten. It was Natal Day, 2010 and I was invited to Maurizio and Stephanie's house for a BBQ. I can vividly recall the beautifully laid outdoor table - the pretty light-purple Italian tablecloth - platters of food set-out, waiting to be enjoyed - guests mingling with flutes of Prosecco in their hands. I wandered through the backyard in the dusky orange glow of the setting sun, to Maurizio at the helm of the grill, turning fat golden squares of white polenta. Caramel coloured and crispy on the outside - fluffy, delicate and white on the inside - I knew that this was something special.

Since that day, I've scanned the shelves at the grocery stores hoping to find white cornmeal. I gave up, thinking that yellow would continue to be my only option. And then, last week, out of the blue, something caught my eye on a lower shelf at Sobey's. Goya's Masarepa White Corn Meal - had I finally found what I had been looking for? The answer is yes.

Now, on a side note, it's no secret that I love bacon - in fact I've become somewhat notorious amongst family, friends and co-workers. I can't help it. I love, not only the flavour of bacon, but pork in general - ham, prosciutto, pancetta, pork tenderloin, porchetta - the list goes on. I decided that this year, instead of always making someone else's recipe and blogging about it, I wanted to make up my own recipes - and I wanted to start the New Year off right with a post that includes my most beloved ingredient.

This recipe is not for the faint of heart, however, it is a rich flavourful dish that is EASY to make - a great appetizer that will definitely impress your friends the next time it's your turn for a dinner party!!

Polenta with Porcini Port Sauce, Gorgonzola and Pancetta (serves 8 - 20 minutes)

3 Cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 Cup instant (pre-cooked) white polenta

2 Tbsp butter

Grated Parmigiano (optional)

~ Boil water and salt - add polenta in thin steady stream whisking entire time - whisk one minute - remove from heat - add butter and Parmigiano - cover cookie sheet with Saran - spread polenta onto cookie sheet to about 1/2 inch thickness - cool


1.5 Cups 35% Whipping Cream

3 oz Port (I use Private Stock - it's cheap and it tastes amazing in sauces)

2 Handfuls of dried Porcini mushrooms

1-2 Cups of boiling water

2 oz Gorgonzola + extra for garnish

salt and pepper to taste

8 Pancetta slices, cooked crispy

~ in a small bowl, just cover dried mushrooms with boiling water to reconstitute - let sit about 10 minutes

~ pour whipping cream into small saucepan - bring to a light boil - add Port and 3 oz of the mushroom water - bring to a light boil - add mushrooms and Gorgonzola - stir occasionally until Gorgonzola is melted then let sit without stirring until bubbly, thick and toffee-coloured - season with salt and pepper to taste

~ while your sauce is reducing you can cut your polenta into any shape you like - I used a round biscuit cutter. You can either pan-sear, grill or bake your polenta, or you can serve it cool. Top with sauce - garnish with small bit of Gorgonzola and a pancetta crisp. Serve.