Trying to choose recipes for this week’s menu from A Taste of Aloha was a daunting task because even reading the cookbook is almost a sensory overload. It’s page after page of recipes that demonstrate all those culinary influences I mentioned in my last post – Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Tahitian, Portuguese, and of course, Hawaiian.
In the end, I wound up choosing six, so I’d better get down to business.
The beverage chapter in A Taste of Aloha features a veritable bounty of summery boat drinks. Brady tried to order a white sangria at a South American restaurant we went to last week, but alas, they were sold out. So I decided to make it up to him.
4 cups dry white wine
3/4 cup Cointreau
1/2 cup sugar
1 (10-ounce) bottle club soda, chilled
1 small bunch green grapes
1 sliced orange
1 sliced lemon
1 sliced lime
Garnish: Green apple wedges dipped in lemon juice
Mix white wine, Cointreau and sugar and chill. Just before serving, stir in the club soda, adding grapes, orange, lemon and lime slices. For each serving, garnish glass with an apple wedge.
For the first course, I whipped up a traditional Tahitian dish that I learned about from the episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain goes to French Polynesia. When I found it in A Taste of Aloha, I was determined to try it, even after I learned that it involved raw ahi tuna, which is not exactly a house favorite with the Potts/McCoys. It can take years to recover mentally from a bad sushi experience, but no matter, because this isn’t sushi. It’s something altogether different and wonderful.
1 pound fresh Ahi
1/2 quart lightly salted water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 (12-ounce) can coconut milk
1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste
4-5 drops Tabasco
Cut fish across the grain into bite-size pieces. Soak fish in salted water for 15 minutes. Drain well. Sprinkle fish with salt and add lime juice. Soak for 10 minutes. Knead and mix well. Drain off 3/4 of the juice. Add coconut milk, tomato, onion, red pepper, parsley, salt, pepper and Tabasco.
Marinate for 30 minutes. Serve on a bed of lettuce. Garnish with chopped egg. Serve with toothpicks.
Despite having hard-boiled two eggs for the purpose, I completely forgot to chop them up and sprinkle them on top of the poisson cru, but it was still plenty delicious – we were both surprised by how much we enjoyed it. The tuna was firm and smooth, and not a bit fishy-tasting, and the vegetables, especially the parsley, provided a bright and refreshing balance.
Next, I made cole slaw with a Korean twist.
Kim Chee Salad
1 head cabbage, cut in bite-size pieces
1/4 cup coarse salt
1 small carrot, julienned
4 green onions, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne or crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 teaspoons sugar
Sprinkle salt over cabbage, toss and set aside for 20 minutes. Rinse and drain cabbage in salad dryer. In large bowl, combine cabbage with vegetables and seasonings. Toss well. Refrigerate and toss at intervals to blend flavors. Note: The longer this sits, the better the flavor.
There’s a lot going on in the dressing for this salad – sesame oil, cider vinegar, cayenne – but the flavors come together nicely. This is a nice change of pace from plain old cole slaw, and would be a terrific dish to take to a summer potluck or barbeque. Don’t be afraid to load it up with cayenne or red pepper flakes, but at the same time, don’t be tempted to add more sesame oil than the recipe calls for. A little goes a long way.
It is safe to say that this meal only really needed one chicken entree, but I couldn’t pick between the Hawaiian classic, chicken long rice, and a recipe I stumbled upon intriguingly named…
Evil Jungle Prince
3-4 tablespoons dried red curry stock
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 pound sliced boneless chicken breast, skinned
10-15 fresh basil leaves
4 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1/2 cup chopped white cabbage
Saute the dried red curry stock in heated vegetable oil for 3 minutes. Add coconut milk and cook for 2 minutes on medium heat. Add chicken. Cook for 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium low, add basil and fish sauce and serve on a bed of chopped cabbage. Note: Coconut milk will separate if allowed to come to a boil.
— Keo Sananikone, Keo’s, Honolulu, Hawaii
Let me start by saying that Brady loooovved the Evil Jungle Prince. Whenever his mouth wasn’t stuffed with it, he was singing its praises, and even went back for seconds. I couldn’t find dried red curry stock at the store, so I used curry paste instead, and that seemed to work just fine. This recipe whips up fast. If I was making this after a long day at work (and believe me, in the future, I will be), and wanted to serve it with rice, I’d have to give the rice at least a five minute head start. You can have this on the table in about 15 minutes, and it tastes like it took a lot more effort.
And finally, we finished off with a helping of chicken long rice. The “long rice” in question is actually a thin noodle made of dried mung bean flour.
Chicken with Long Rice
5 pounds chicken thighs
12 cups water
1-2 inches fresh ginger, crushed
2 tablespoons Hawaiian rock salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed (optional)
20 ounces long rice
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Garnish: Chopped green onions
Cover chicken with water. Add ginger, half the rock salt and garlic and simmer 45 minutes or until tender. Cool. Bone chicken and cut into bite-size pieces. Reserve broth. Remove ginger and discard. Add long rice to reserved broth and let stand 1/2 hour. Remove long rice and cut into 4-inch lengths. Return long rice to broth. Add green onions, remaining rock salt and chicken. Bring to boil and simmer 15-20 minutes. Add additional salt if desired. Chicken long rice will be moist with a bit of broth as a sauce. Garnish with chopped onion. Note: If made the day ahead, add a little extra chicken broth before reheating as the long rice will absorb existing broth.
This is a luau recipe, so it’s designed to serve about 20 people. I made a 1/3 recipe, and got a little fast and loose with my proportions, so as a result, I wound up with too much long rice, and not enough broth to leave a sauce. But before I go on, a word about the broth.
The next time you feel like making a chicken stock, that combination of chicken thighs, ginger, garlic, and rock salt is delicate, elegant, and sent me over the moon when I took a taste.
It wasn’t our favorite dish, but that is my menu’s fault, and no blame at all should be assigned to the innocent chicken long rice. It’s just that the Kim Chee Salad and the Evil Jungle Prince are spicy dishes with big, powerful flavors, and the chicken long rice is more subtle. While I enjoyed mine quite a bit, it just didn’t pair well with the other things on the plate, and flavor-wise, got lost in the shuffle. Served on its own, or with a more neutral side dish, I’m sure we would have been crowing about it.
While I am always very excited about dessert, I was particularly excited about this week’s dessert.
As you may know, this week was the season premiere of Mad Men. I’ve watched and loved and voraciously followed many television shows over the course of my life – The Wire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, Top Chef – but my love of Mad Men really approaches something like addiction, obsession, or a combination of the two.
This shouldn’t surprise anyone – I mean, I’m a librarian in the History Department at the Los Angeles Public Library, enjoy making old fashioneds and reading books about Nixon, and I collect old Junior League cookbooks. It’s as if the show was written specifically for me.
So, the other day, my friend Stephen emails to ask if I know where to find a recipe for pineapple and pine nut pie. He’d just been watching an episode from last season, “The Gold Violin,” where Sal, the closeted art director at Sterling Cooper, and his eager-to-please wife, Kitty, are entertaining cocky, handsome account man Ken Cosgrove in their home, and Kitty has made this pie for dessert.
Stephen thought that this sounded absolutely delicious, and wrote that “if anyone would have a recipe for it, it would be you.” Like Rupert Giles, the intrepid librarian of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I told him I would “consult my books.”
And sure enough, I turned up this little gem in A Taste of Aloha. Apologies to its creator, as I’m sure it’s probably tastier with pecans, but I could not resist substituting pine nuts.
Pineapple Cream Cheese Pie
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 (9-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Blend sugar with cornstarch and add pineapple. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and clear. Cool. Blend cream cheese with sugar and salt. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Blend in milk and vanilla. Spread the cooled pineapple mixture over the bottom of the pie shell. Pour in cream cheese mixture and sprinkle with pecans. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 50 minutes. Cool before serving.
If Brady went a little nuts for the Evil Jungle Prince, this was the dish that did it for me. Two pieces, and I might have it again for breakfast tomorrow, and not bother feeling ashamed. We had it served at room temperature, but I suspect that chilled, it is even better.
It was kind of a big and ambitious week, both in terms of cooking effort and of trying new and unusual things, but the recipes in A Taste of Aloha are worth the effort. Often, when you’re cooking using the same old ingredients, you have a pretty good idea of how things are going to taste when you’re finished, so it’s fun every now and again to try cooking in the dark. The first bite or sip of every dish was a complete surprise, and a pleasant one at that.
And after all that cooking and writing, I think I deserve a sangria nightcap.