It's that time of year again—time for holiday parties. You remember them from last year, right? There were the big tables featuring a golden bird and maybe a succulent ham as well. There are often a couple of pasta salads and a red or green gelatin mold. Cookies are the anticipated dessert (unless of course your host is trying to pass off the fruitcake). If you want to put your appetite in the holiday spirit, add a zesty new item to the party menu. Try grilled shrimp!
Grilling enthusiast and author of two cookbooks (and one to come), Melanie Barnard, is one of those people who never puts her grill away. She loves to grill the last vegetable of the harvest, as well as the first asparagus of springtime. And to liven up her winter holiday parties, she is apt to accompany the traditional turkey and ham with a platter of grilled shrimp kebabs.
Shrimp is an American favorite. When asked how many shrimp one should buy for a group, Barnard answers, "As many as you can or want to afford, since none will be left no matter how much you buy." If you are having a holiday open house, shrimp kebabs make an appetizing presentation along with turkey or ham. They are also easy to eat, since shrimp and kebab-sized vegetable and fruit pieces need little or no cutting. Finally, kebabs can be prepared ahead of time, and the cooking can be relegated to one person at the last minute. The fragrance of the charcoal grill (or even the aroma wafting from the kebabs grilling under the oven broiler) is irresistible and will add some excitement to every party.
And excitement is probably the most important (and often least planned) detail of a party. The very best hosts and hostesses take excitement into consideration in everything from food to flowers to furniture placement.
Begin with the furniture. If you are having a large party, be sure that there is good traffic flow around the house. If you place the beverage area just inside the front door, your guests may never get past the entryway. Instead place it at the rear of the house or the living room so that guests will be forced to walk through, meet friends along the way and nibble some goodies at the same time. If your party is small, arrange a seating area in the living room or family room that will allow everyone to be in the conversation at the same time. At the table, be sure your floral centerpiece is low enough that people can talk over it.
Placement of the food is equally important. At a large party, people will be standing much of the time, so even the most beautifully arranged food tray placed on a low coffee table is not likely to be noticed. It is well worth hiring your teenagers to pass the trays—it gives the teens some good hosting experience, as well as ensuring that your food will be enjoyed. Even if the party is small, it's always a good idea to pass the appetizers, because people may be shy about helping themselves. These days it's also fashionable and more fun to accept the guests' offers to help. Everyone feels included and has more fun.
More fun is one reason why grilling is such an ideal way to entertain. The guests can help, and participation in this activity is a sure party enhancer. If the weather is uncooperatively cold, most quick grill recipes, such as these Holiday Shrimp Kebabs, can be done in the kitchen under the oven broiler, too.
Bottled Italian Dressing is the secret to great holiday party grilling, since it makes these Holiday Shrimp Kebabs the easiest part of the party. It is a perfectly blended marinade for the shrimp, and also enhances the colorful peppers and pineapple. Whether you thread the shrimp, fruit and vegetables on small bamboo skewers for appetizers or large metal skewers for a main course, these are sure to please everyone on your holiday party list.
4 main course or 8 to 12 appetizer servings.
In a shallow dish, combine the Italian dressing, curry powder, cardamom and hot pepper flakes. Add the shrimp, turning to coat completely. Cover and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes. Add the bell pepper, scallions, pineapple and melon to the shrimp, tossing to coat the vegetables with the marinade.
Thread the shrimp, fruit and vegetables onto 4 large (about 12") metal skewers (placing some of each onto each skewer, beginning and ending with fruit), or thread onto small bamboo skewers that have been soaked 30 minutes in water (placing one each of the shrimp, vegetables, and fruit on each skewer).
Grill over medium coals, turning the skewers once, until the shrimp are opaque and the vegetables and fruit are softened, 4 to 6 minutes.
Note: If you don't want to use the melon, just add more pineapple. The fruit should be on the ends of the skewers because the heat of the grill will be less there. For a main course, the kebabs should be served over rice, which can be part of the recipe if you wish. For appetizers, the bamboo skewers should be arranged on a platter and served. Both are really festive for holiday parties.
Compliments of Wish-Bone Dressing
This page originally published as a FoodDay article in 1997.
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This page modified February 2007
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