The best kabobs are really the most simple. Especially when they are a part of your summer entertaining. Kabobs and parties are a great combination.
First off because one of the best ways to keep guests entertained at a casual party is to get everyone involved in the cooking. Kabobs are perfect for those “let’s all pitch in” evenings outside when the weather is warm. The prep work can all be done in advance of the cooking. The skewering of ingredients can be left to some of the older children, allowing the adults some time for a cocktail at sunset.
When it’s time to actually cook the skewers it’s easy to delegate the task to Uncle Louie or Cousin Velma because even they can’t easily screw it up!
This is why I like to keep kabobs simple. But just because they are easy doesn’t mean there are not a few rules to assure Kabob Party success.
It all starts with your imagination. Your creativity is vital in imagining the medley of great tasting ingredients destined for your sticks. And though I want you to get creative and varied in your choice of tastes and textures– soft, crunchy, spicy and sweet– please keep in mind several factors as you make your plans.
First how much to make? It’s easy to overdue it. Two or three skewers per person are just about right for most appetites. So start there and throw in a few extra for good measure because you know how Uncle Louie and Cousin Velma are! Besides it’s fun to have several alternatives and a few well-chosen combinations to keep everybody happy.
But don’t let my words seem like an invitation to go crazy with your skewers. If you want to have more than one thing on a skewer pair them wisely. Remember that meat cooks more quickly than vegetables so cut the pieces accordingly. You may want to par-boil some of the veggies too. Potatoes and carrots are good examples of veggies that need to be well on their way to cooked before they hit the flame.
I particularly like seafood kabobs, but firm-fleshed varieties work best. Mahi-mahi, salmon, swordfish and tuna are great choices. They all lend themselves well to marinating or brining also. Which is another aspect of the pre-planning for you to consider.
Brines, marinades and rubs add an extra flavor dimension and can help each skewer develop it’s own special identity. A sweet and sour marinade can give seafood a decidedly Asian twist. But that same fish skewer can attain a Provencal vibe with a mustard and anchovy sauce slathered on before grilling.
For some of the meats or vegetables that take longer to cook I prefer to use metal skewers. Partly because metal won’t burn the way bamboo does. But also, as the skewer heats up it actually assists in cooking the interior of the meat. If you choose metal look for flat-bladed styles, these make the kabobs much easier to turn.
Lastly sauces and condiments are vital to creating a fully finished and very flavorful meal. They also add to the “do it yourself” aspect of a great Kabob Party. The condiments can be made ahead and brought out to the table for guests to help themselves.
This is another opportunity for you to get creative because even this simple summer skewer of brined then grilled shrimp that I am presenting here can take on a Latin flair when paired with the right sauce, or should I say salsa. In this case a Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa, which brings a refreshing tartness to these smoky, briny grilled shrimp.
And like I said simple really is best and this recipe is super simple. You can make the salsa when the shrimp are in the brine. Meaning you can quickly grill the shrimp and get dinner on the table with very little effort.
Because the brined shrimp don’t need to be cooked very long I have a skewering trick I use to assure that they don’t get overcooked (or undercooked). Shrimp are particularly adept at pirouetting all around the skewer as you attempt to quickly turn them over on the grill. Inevitably one or two of them don’t follow along with the others and end up getting grilled too long on one side and not at all on the other side. I take care of this by alternating the shrimp left and right, tucking them into themselves, following their natural shape. Then I secure the little buggers with two skewers as seen in the photos here!
Adapted from CIA faculty member John Ash
- 1⁄3 c kosher salt
- 1⁄3 c brown sugar, packed
- 1 q cool water
- 24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1⁄4 c olive oil
- 3 t garlic, minced
- 1 T flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1⁄4 t red pepper flakes
- 2 T dry white wine
- 4 oz fresh tomatillos, husked, washed, and coarsely chopped
- 1 t serrano chile, seeded and corarsely chopped, or to taste
- 1 large ripe, creamy acocado, peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 1 T green onion, chopped
- 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 T fresh lemon juice
- 1⁄2 t sea salt
- 1⁄4 t freshly ground black pepper, as needed
- 2 T cilantro, coarsely chopped
- lemon slices as needed
For the brine: Stir the kosher salt, brown sugar into 1‑quart cool water until dissolved. Add the shrimp and refrigerate at least 15 minutes or up to one hour.
For the marinade: Mix 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, flat leaf parsley, red pepper flakes, and dry white wine in a small bowl and set aside.
Remove the shrimp from the brine. Wash and dry throughly. Toss them with the marinade, coat and marinate for 1‑hour, covered in the refrigerator.
For the salsa: In a food processor, combine the tomatillos, remaining teaspoon garlic, and serrano chile; pulse to finely chop. Add the avocado and green onion and pulse til just blended. The finished salsa should have some texture.
Place the salsa in a small bowl and toss with the extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Store, covered and refrigerated up to 2 hours. Toss with cilantro just before serving.
To grill the shrimp: Light a charcoal fire. Drain the shrimp from the marinade. Place the 6 shrimp on a work surface in front of you alternating the shrimp left and right, tucking them into themselves, following their natural shape. Secure the shrimp with 2 skewers so that they grill evenly and turn over easily.
Grill the shrimp over medium-hot coals until they are barely cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes total, turning halfway through. Grill the lemon slices until softened and well marked by the grill. Place the shrimp and lemon slices on plates and top with the salsa. Serve warm or at room temperature.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD