Skewers' status is soaring on menus, driven by their easy shareability and ethnic appeal, traits that draw strong consumer interest. An adept vehicle for proteins, vegetables and even fruit, they are an ideal showcase for chicken breasts.
This article first appeared in the 1 April 2006 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. To find out more about R&I, visit its website
Operators have a full array of options for the protein, from the cost economy of whole birds broken down in house to the labor savings of fully cooked and flavored strips that can be cut into nuggets.
At Andina, an upscale, Peruvian restaurant in Portland, Ore., single-ingredient skewers keep things simple, but seasonal produce can lend variance in taste, texture, color and food cost. Precooked potatoes, mushrooms, roasted bell peppers and onions are skewer-friendly choices.
Marinades, pastes and rubs create opportunities to add global tastes. High-intensity blends such as chimichurri, peri-peri and harissa pair well with chicken's mild profile.
Presentations can be made distinctive by swapping standard wood or bamboo skewers with creative substitutes such as lemongrass, rosemary or sugarcane.
Skewered foods leap from starter to main course when served over a bed of rice, noodles, couscous or quinoa.
1. Flavor factor
Marinades boost flavor and keep meat moist amid the grill's heat. Because chicken is naturally tender, marinade is used to add flavor; that happens quickly, so marinating can be a preshift activity.
2. True Peru At Andina in Portland, Ore., chile pastes made from Peruvian aji mirasol and aji panca chiles bring complexity, mild heat and rich, fruity undertones to Chef Jose Luis de Cossio's chicken skewers.
3. Abreast of the trends
Fresh, boneless breasts are a popular choice among chefs, but chicken tenders are a great match for skewers as well. Boneless thigh meat or duck breast also can be used.