Shish kabobs are made by skewering chunks of food on bamboo sticks or thin metal rods and grilling or broiling them until done. They are appealing entrees because guests can choose the food combination on individual kabobs, skewer them on their own and monitor the degree to which they are cooked on outdoor barbecues.
For practical purposes, choose raw shrimp large enough to be impaled on a skewer without falling apart. Shrimp are typically sold in a count-by-pound measurement determined by the size of the shrimp. For example, a 21 to 30 count has shrimp roughly two-thirds smaller than shrimp with a seven to 10 count per pound. Choose large shrimp roughly the same size as the chunks of other foods that will be included in the kabobs so everything gets done at the same time. Shell-on shrimp is typically more flavorful but requires peeling and deveining for kabobs for ease of eating.
Shrimp has a delicate flavor easily overpowered by other foods. Pair it with vegetables with mild tastes such as sweet white onions, green, orange and red bell peppers, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, yellow or green Italian squash, precooked baby red potatoes and corn on the cob rounds.
Pineapple brings out the natural flavor of shrimp and is a favorite grilling fruit that releases natural juices that caramelize over hot barbecue fire or under broiler elements. To counterbalance the sweetness of the pineapple, skewer one or two lemon wedges in between the pineapple chunks and the shrimp. Peach, plum and nectarine chunks are also good shrimp kabob choices.
Sauces and Marinades
To give the shrimp a meatier texture, brine it in a mixture of kosher salt, sugar and cold water for 20 to 30 minutes and rinse it well under cold running water before skewering. Brining can be done before or after the shrimp are peeled. To add extra flavor to the shish kabobs, baste them during cooking. For garlicky kabobs, add chopped garlic, shallots, hot pepper flakes, salt, pepper, crushed bay leaf and fresh herbs such as Italian parsley, thyme, basil, rosemary or marjoram to equal parts of melted butter and olive oil and briefly cook to infuse the flavors. Cool the mixture before brushing on the food. To lightly season the kabobs, baste them with a simple mixture of oil and balsamic vinegar.
Kabob Tips and Hints
If using bamboo skewers, soak them in cold water for a half hour before using to prevent flare-ups. Choose metal skewers with square rather than round shafts to best hold foods in place. Skewer foods securely and at different angles and configurations to keep them from rotating when turned during cooking.
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images