Tue Mar 5, 2013
My frequent trips to the chain restaurant capital that is Houston, Texas, inevitably has me dining at these shrines to American food culture fairly often. Growing up in suburbia, I admit to having a lingering nostalgia for chain restaurants, unfortunately those memories rarely seem to hold up when I revisit these restaurants as an adult—the dishes all seem to fall three or four adjectives short of their descriptions. There is one exception to this, a restaurant that wasn't part of my youth, but now is so ingrained into my personal history that I make a point of visiting every time I'm down South—Papiasito's Cantina. I'm usually in for the addictive salty chips with thin salsa and a platter of sizzling skirt steak fajitas served alongside lard-laden flour tortillas, but I've also found they make one of the few shrimp dishes (I'm not a shrimp fan) I really enjoy in the form a shrimp brochette.
This dish has all the makings of a chain restaurant disaster where there's a hope that an overabundance of ingredients might outweigh quality. Here's how the official description goes: "A skewer of mesquite-grilled shrimp, stuffed with cheese and fresh jalapenos, wrapped in bacon with pico de gallo." So many delicious things in there, but do they really add up to a whole that can be considered good eats? In this case, the answer is a clear yes.
I felt so strongly about this that I wanted to tackle the recipe at home. I started it with a couple pounds of top quality shrimp—spend a little extra for the good stuff here, we've found skimping on shrimp has never been a wise decision. I tossed these with a very simple seasoning of garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne.
Then came the stuffing, which took some trial and error to get correct. Basically I wanted to stuff cheese and half of a jalapeno slice into these shrimp. While being large, I found a simple "pocket" sliced into the top of the shrimp, but not all the way through, was not sufficient. So I began cutting a 3/4-inch slit the way through the shrimp, nestling the slice of jack cheese and pepper inside, and then using the bacon wrap to hold the mutilated shrimp back together.
For ease of grilling, the stuffed and wrapped shrimp were threaded onto skewers. No need to mess with individual pieces here, the skewered shrimp make it a cinch to grill a whole bunch at once. This method requires less work and watching at the grill, making it less likely you'll be overwhelmed and start overcooking.
The shrimp skewers got a light second dusting of the seasoning and went right over direct high heat. They grilled up quickly, only taking a few minutes per side for the bacon to crisp and the shrimp to be just cooked through.
Slicing, stuffing, and wrapping the shrimp may have been a little time consuming, but the effort was well rewarded as these were so delicious. They had a nice crisp, salty bacon coating that held a heat from a jalapeno that was put into check by the creamy Monterey Jack, all delivered in one might tasty crustacean. As many chain restaurant's meals sounds good on paper, but then fail on execution, I have to tip my hat to Pappasito's for making this one work and making happy eaters out of many Meatwavers with my own version.
Bacon-Wrapped, Jalapeno and Cheese-Stuffed Shrimp
- Prep Time:
- 25 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 5 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 30 Minutes
- 4-6 servings
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and rinsed
- 2 oz Monterey Jack cheese, cut into thin strips
- 3 jalapenos, halved, seeded, and cut into thin slices
- 1 pound bacon strips, halved
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 lime, quartered
- In a small bowl mix together garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Place shrimp in a large bowl and season with 3/4 of the spice mixture, tossing to evenly coat.
- Working with one shrimp at a time, make a slit about 3/4-inch long as base of shrimp. Place one jalapeno slice and one cheese slice in cut slit, then wrap base of shrimp all the way around with half a slice of bacon. Repeat with rest of shrimp.
- Thread shrimp onto skewers and season lightly with remaining spice mixture. Brush shrimps lightly with melted butter.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over entire surface of coal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Grill shrimp over high heat until bacon crisps and shrimp just cook through, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a platter and serve with lime wedges.