The Famous Pu-Pu Platter at Avondale’s Voodoo Lounge has food on a stick, such as Lobster Corn Dogs (foreground).
Wade Spees // The Post and Courier
They're attractive, flirty, and there's no mistaking their body language: I want to be picked up.
We're talking foods on a stick, a presentation that is age-old and continues to captivate imaginations and appetites of the young, old and in-between. Things eaten on a stick speak to primal instincts (cavemen), retro nostalgia (1960s fondues), and campy times (S'Mores around a fire). The jingle of an ice-cream truck is synonymous with stick-y treats.
They're abundant at state and county fairs -- cotton candy to corn dogs to deep-fried Snickers. Caramel apples and caramel popcorn balls.
And what would tailgating be without sticking it to someone?
You'll never have to eat alone when food on a stick is involved. Few foods say it's party time as clearly as something on a skewer.
That was Matt Armendariz's thought when he wrote and did the photography for "On a Stick: 80 Party-Perfect Recipes" (Quirk, $16.95). Armendariz lives in Los Angeles and has a blog, MattBites.com.
"It has an automatic built-in party factor," Armendariz says. "When you think about it, you don't go home alone and put food on sticks and sit by yourself on the couch and eat it."
Armendariz's ultimate food on a stick is all-American and a baseball fan favorite: the corn dog. But globally, meat on a stick -- think kebabs and satays -- are more common, he says.
"But I guess a corn dog is the same thing, it just happens to be dipped in a crunchy, sweet, deep-fried batter, which makes me so very happy."
Armendariz found when working on the book that almost any food can be put on a stick.
"There's a formula I came up with when writing this book: one part delicious recipe plus one part engineering plus one part crazy."
He says there are a few key considerations when adapting food to a stick: its weight, how it will stay on a stick, what type of stick and the cooking method.
In short, some foods need to stay put so they can be cooked, while others are simply skewered and served in their raw, natural state.
There's a range of recipes in the book, both savory and sweet, as well those good-for-you and the devil-may-care kind. They travel around the world, too, as in Vietnamese Bo La Lot, Italian-inspired Caprese Sticks and here at home, the Frozen Elvis.
The book's most challenging recipe proved to be Margarita Jell-O Shots.
The gelatin cubes seem to have "minds of their own," Armendariz says. "Try as you may you just can't control that wiggle."
Here’s a sampling of recipes found in “On a Stick!” by Matt Armendariz (Quirk Books, 2011, $16.95).
8 bamboo skewers
For Red Curry Marinade:
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
1/4 cup Thai basil, chopped
3 tablespoons red curry paste
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper
For the shrimp:
11/2 pounds tiger (or other jumbo) shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined, with tails intact
1 small pineapple, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Soak skewers in water about 30 minutes.
Place all marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. Add shrimp and pineapple and toss gently. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.
Thread shrimp and pineapple cubes onto skewers, alternating items, until all pieces are used.
Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high and brush with oil. Grill skewers on each side 4 to 6 minutes or until shrimp is just cooked through. Season lightly with salt and pepper and serve.
4 pop sticks
4 medium bananas, peeled
1 cup chopped cooked bacon
1 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Insert a pop stick in the bottom of each banana and place on prepared baking sheet. Freeze at least 1 hour.
Combine bacon and peanuts in a shallow dish and set aside.
Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Dip each frozen banana in melted chocolate and allow excess to drip off. Roll in bacon-peanut mixture and then return to parchment-lined baking sheet. Refreeze at least 1 hour. Keep frozen until ready to serve.