Does food really taste better on a stick? It’s trendy and portable but a bamboo skewer is still not a magic wand. For the same reason ice cream tastes better in a cone and Chinese food tastes better with chopsticks, some foods are better eaten on a stick. It’s not scientific, but presentation plays a role in the way we enjoy our food; we eat with our eyes first.
These days shish kabobs and corn dogs aren’t the only thing served on a stick anymore. Ever since Starbucks came out with their cake pops, inspired bakers everywhere have started poking sticks into baked goods, candies and other desserts. Could it be the next whoopie pie?
If that’s the case, Matt Armendariz, food photographer and author of On a Stick: 80 Party Perfect Recipes, is ahead of the game. The cookbook, released in May, is a feast for the eyes. Armendariz showcases his food styling skills with 80 creative, assembly-required recipes. I was doubtful at first about some of the creations. Spaghetti and meatballs just doesn’t belong on a stick, but somehow Armendariz almost has me sold: swirls of spaghetti studded with little meatballs are frozen mid-spin in a deep fryer. Potato chips on a stick just seems impossible, and pizza on a stick? It’s already easy enough to eat with your hands. But sticking a skewer through a piece of meat doesn’t count, Armendariz re-forms meals to fit the stick.
Not only is this cookbook great for on-a-stick disciples, it’s also fun for dippers. You know, people who’d rather dip and dunk their food than smear or spread. Armendariz lists 24 homemade dipping sauce recipes from spicy to creamy and salty to sweet. Each recipe has a sauce pairing suggestion and a specific stick recommended. The first few pages showcase a selection of utensils like cocktail picks and de-leafed rods of rosemary.
While not all of his recipes are college-kitchen friendly, substitutions can be made easily. When I made the Fried Mozzarella, I didn’t didn’t have cocktail sticks so I slid a bamboo skewer through the fried cheese and used leftover small mozzarella balls instead of large chunks. It turned out great and it was fun to slide the cheese balls off the stick.
The cookbook is great for entertaining. Make a batch of appetizers on a stick and the only clean up after the party are cups, napkins, and a game of pick-up sticks. However, I attempted to make a meal out of on-a-stick foods, which I don’t recommend. Foods on a stick are better eaten when mingling at a party or walking around a street fair.
So a pile of dirty sticks later, what’s the verdict? Food on a stick is more fun, no question, but no matter how many sticks you poke into fois gras I will still not eat it.
Read on for a sneak peak at one of the recipes, and comment below for a chance to win a copy of your own! To enter the On a Stick giveaway, you must:
Alexia Detweiler is a freelance food writer based in Westlake Village, CA. Her ideal date meal is sushi, which probably tastes even better on a stick.
Spaghetti and Meatballs on a Stick
8 popsicle sticks
5 cups plus 3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
1/2 lb cooked spaghetti
2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1/2 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp minced yellow onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 egg white
2 tbsp seasoned bread crumbs
salt and pepper, to taste
Line a baking sheet and shallow baking dish with parchment paper.
Make the meatballs: Place all meatball ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until well combined. Shape into 1-inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheet.
Warm 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs and cook, turning to brown all sides, until just cooked through. Remove from heat and let cool.
Gently toss meatballs, spaghetti, marinara sauce and Parmesan in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Place mixture in the prepared baking dish, cover, and refrigerate at least 12 hours or up to overnight.
Preheat the remaining 5 cups of oil to 350°F. Cut chilled pasta mixture into 8 equal squares. Remove squares from baking dish and insert a pop stick into each. Carefully place spaghetti sticks into pot, one at a time, and fry about 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.
Recipe courtesy of On A Stick! Check out Matt’s blog at http://mattbites.com.