August 17, 2011

Shrimp Kebabs (Pinchos de camarones)

Shrimp pinchos (kebabs)
Shrimp Kebabs (Pinchos de camarones)

Whether you call them kebobs, kabobs, kababs, shish kebab, brochettes, or pinchos as they are called in La Ceiba, Honduras, meat on a stick is an easy and quick, but impressive meal. Pinchos of beef, chicken or shrimp are a popular restaurant meal in La Ceiba and are simple to make at home, too, either by grilling outdoors or broiling in the oven. The variations are endless with any type of meat, vegetables, and flavorings. Oh, to add one more name to the list, one former restaurant in La Ceiba called them 'alambres' (wires) referring to the skewer. If you don't have access to your own kitchen, I recommend the pinchos at Expatriates Restaurant here in La Ceiba.

El Jefe would opt for beef any day but one of the many nice things about pinchos is that it isn't such a big deal to prepare more than one type of meat in the same meal. My personal favorites are chicken or shrimp, especially when I can combine them with fresh pineapple and lots of chiles.

As one of the Blogicito commenters mentioned recently, the local La Ceiba pineapples have been just out of this world in rich flavor during the past few months. I always love fresh pineapple but apparently the weather has been absolutely perfect lately for developing sweet, juicy, flavorful pineapples. No matter how green or yellow, how big or small, all have been outstanding.

You can assemble pinchos in advance and marinade them for an hour or so or even longer if necessary to help tenderize beef. Or just marinade the meat separately and assemble later. Be careful with shrimp, though, that you don't marinade them in anything that works as a tenderizer or you'll end up with super mushy shrimp. I made that mistake once with pineapple and shrimp appetizers, so to be safe, El Jefe insisted that the pineapple be on separate sticks. Since we were cooking them immediately, I don't think that it was really necessary, but, you know, he's the boss. ;-)

I like pinchos for parties because depending upon the crowd, people can prepare their own with the ingredients they like best. There are usually some who enjoy the cooking especially when it is outside on the grill — man territory. I think it is fun and it's good to take the pressure off the ladies for a change.

Here is a tip I learned from Martha Stewart: If you use wooden sticks, soak them in water for an hour or two prior to assembling the kabobs to prevent the tips from catching on fire. Here is a tip I learned from Gordon whats-his-name, the British chef/restaurant saver: Never reuse wooden sticks. Throw them out as they could contain bacteria and he might have to come and close down your kitchen.

These shrimp pinchos included chiles, onions, and tomatoes, just what we happened to have on hand. Since it only takes about 5-7 minutes to cook the shrimp, you wouldn't want to use any vegetables that need a longer cooking time. El Jefe had more onions on his pincho, but he thought the onions had a too-raw taste. The next time, I think I'll saute the onion pieces for a couple of minutes before assembling the pinchos. I've done that in the past, but didn't think about it this time.

Here is the 'secret' marinade I used: Lee Kum Kee Marinada de Pollo Teriyaki, available at most of the grocery stores in La Ceiba. I use this a lot, straight out of the bottle, including for Tex-Mex chicken or beef fajitas! I discovered it one of the first times I tried to make fajitas in Honduras and of course didn't have my favorite smoky fajita marinade from Texas. Out of desperation to pump up the flavor, I tried some of this marinade (Chinese-Tex-Mex?). It was surprisingly good, and surprisingly not so oriental-flavored as I expected. Just go easy on the salt in your recipe as this packs a heaping serving of salt.

We served the pinchos with steamed jasmine rice (YUM — what aroma and flavor!), and since we can never get enough pineapple, a fruit salad.

While the pineapples are at their peak, other recipes you might enjoy:

Pork and pineapple with chiles, garlic, and ginger

La Gringa's fresh pineapple ice cream recipe
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