Melissa Elsmo

To welcome warmer days, I planned a little retro menu to bring out a sweet summertime vibe. A batch of my coconut coated shrimp is the perfect addition to proper Polynesian pupu platter. Serve these appetizer morsels alongside some retro rumaki, spicy chicken wings, or crispy wontons to get your guests in a sun-drenched state of mind.

Follow your fried shrimp with a batch of casual tiki burgers with island-inspired toppings like ham, pineapple and pepper jack cheese. I served my teriyaki spiked cheeseburgers on sweet rolls with a bright red cabbage and orange slaw dressed with little more than a splash of rice wine vinegar.

Go on make the most of our first sunny days of the season. Make a mess of mai tais, fire up the tiki torches, grill some pineapple and host your friends for an easy bash with an island flair.

Sweet Coconut Shrimp with Chili Drizzle:

Use up the some more of the sweet chili sauce you have on hand and serve up this winning appetizer at your Memorial Day soiree! Sweet chili sauce can be found in the Asian aisle of finer grocery stores or specialty markets.

  • Canola Oil for frying
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp-10/12 per pound
  • 2/3 Cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus extra for sprinkling
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (I used sriracha)
  • 2/3 Cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2/3 Cup sweetened coconut
  • 3/4 Cup Sweet-Chili sauce (divided)
  • 1 Tablespoon Black Sesame
  • 2 Snipped Scallions

Peel and devein the shrimp leaving the tails intact (or ask your fish monger to do it for you). Set up a 3-step breading station: place the flour in a small bowl and season with the 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Crack the eggs into a second bowl and mix well with the hot sauce. In a third bowl combine the coconut and the breadcrumbs.

Pour canola oil into a medium high-sided skillet to a depth of 2 inches and heat to 375 degrees (a bread cube will sizzle on contact). Dredge the shrimp in the seasoned flour. Shake off the excess and dip into the beaten egg before coating with the coconut mixture.

Fry the shrimp in batches for 3 minutes until deeply golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle the hot shrimp with ¼ Cup of the sweet chili sauce and sprinkle with the sesame and scallions. Serve remaining sauce on the side for dipping.

Sunny Tiki Burgers (Makes 8 burgers)

To grill the pineapple for these sunny burgers place it directly on the grates of a medium hot grill for about 2 minutes per side. While you are at it grill up some extra to serve on the side at your next cook out.

For the burgers:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • ½ Cup minced sweet onion
  • 1 Tablespoon teriyaki sauce
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons sweet chili sauce (divided)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 slices of deli ham or griddled Canadian bacon
  • 8 slices of pepper jack cheese

For Serving:

  • 3 Scallions, snipped
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 8 slices of fresh pineapple, grilled
  • Teriyaki mayo (recipe follows)
  • 8 Sweet Hawaiian Hamburger Buns, toasted

For the Teriyaki Mayo:

  • 1 Cup Mayo
  • 1 Tablespoon Teriyaki sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 scallion, snipped
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

To prepare the burgers: Quickly mix the beef, minced onion, teriyaki sauce, 1 Tablespoon sweet chili sauce, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Form the meat into 8 equal patties; do not over work the meat or your burgers will be tough.

Prepare a medium hot grill. Grill the burgers for 3 minutes on the first side and flip. Glaze the top of each burger with the sweet chili sauce and sprinkle with the cilantro. Top each burger with a slice of ham and top with a slice of pepper jack cheese. Cover the grill and allow to cook until cheese has melted-about 1 minute. You should aim for 6-7 minutes total cooking time-this recipe assumes it will take 2 minutes to glaze and top the burgers.

To serve: Spread a toasted bun with teriyaki mayo. Transfer the burger to the bun and top with a piece of grilled pineapple and a sprinkling of scallion and sliced red pepper.

To prepare the teriyaki mayo: Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The mayo can be made a day in advance.

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