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Category Archives: Hawai’i

Local animal protein is starting to become more accessible to home cooks on Oahu. In addition to beef, pork, and chicken, you can now find local venison and rabbit. Ed Kenney started slinging pork and tasty porchetta sandwiches at the Kaka’ako Farmers’ Market a few months back to help Shinsato Farms move product and recently added rabbit to his offerings.

A taste of Superette's porchetta

a taste of Superette’s porchetta

I jumped (or hopped) at the opportunity to play around with some bunny and talked with Ed about his experience working with wabbit at his westaurants. Through Ed’s input, the wonders of google, and my imagination, I managed to use the entire rabbit in three tasty meals.

Rabbit is extremely easy to butcher. It took just a few minutes to divide the skinned, headless carcass into neat, manageable pieces. I first separated the forelegs, then the rear, followed by chopping off the end of the spine and pelvis. Rabbit bones are easy to cut through and my 8” chef’s knife was sufficient. Next, I cut along the spine and separated the loin and saddle, leaving the ribs attached to the loin for aesthetics. I roasted the bones and made stock.

Before

before

After

after

Following Ed’s advice, I made a white ragu with the forelegs. I went with my usual ragu base, but added sprigs of thyme and didn’t include tomato. In a bath of white wine and rabbit stock, I simmered the ragu for about 5 hours, then added fresh tagliatelle and topped with MA’O parsley and pecorino.

ragu, fresh tagliatelle, pecorino

ragu, tagliatelle, pecorino

I wrapped the saddles in prosciutto, then browned them and the ribs in duck fat and finished to medium in the oven. I sautéed the liver and kidneys, keeping them pink in the center, and served everything over a fig/port puree and covered in jus.

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saddle, loin, offal, fig

The rabbit’s swansong came in the form of braised legs, another Chef Ed suggestion. I went coq au vin style and rendered lardons in Naked Cow Dairy truffle butter, browned and removed the legs, added and softened the mir poix, then dumped half a bottle of red, rabbit stock, and herbs, returned the rabbit, and braised for a couple hours. I put everything except for the rabbit in the vitamix, then thinned the sauce out with a little more stock. I hit the leg with my Searzall and served it, well-sauced, over Camas Country Mill heirloom polenta. For the polenta, I went 4:1 liquid to cornmeal, using half milk and half rabbit stock, and finished with an ungodly amount of butter and pecorino.

braised leg, polenta

braised leg, polenta

My rabbit adventure was a success. The meat itself was juicy, tender, and tasty. It did not taste like chicken. The 2.5-pound rabbit cost $30 and provided three meals for two people. If you’d like to try for yourself, visit Kaimuki Superette at the Kaka’ako Farmers Market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

DISCLOSURE: I paid full price for everything.

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Jay Theiler from Snake River Farms and Ray Signorello from Signorello Estate recently hosted a couple “Kobe and Cabernet” dinners in Honolulu. Both Snake River Farms and Signorello Estate are family owned operations that focus on quality. Snake River Farms, America’s preeminent Wagyu producer, first entered my radar when I had their buttery soft and delicious beef at Vintage Cave. Signorello meticulously produces small batches of premium wines in Napa. This was some serious beef and wine. My wonderful and talented friend Malia scored an invite, but is busy eating her way through South America, so I was able to go in her stead. The venues for the two dinners were the Plaza Club and the Outrigger Canoe Club; I went with the latter and was treated to a spectacular sunset over the ocean before dinner started.

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I sat at Jay and Ray’s table and was pleasantly surprised to see a few familiar faces join us for the meal. The hosts told us about their operations and explained each course and pairing. The party started with Snake River Farms Wagyu filet tartar. An extremely generous portion of very good meat came paired with an interesting full-bodied Signorello Hope’s Cuvée Chardonnay, which is named after Ray’s late mother.

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Next was Snake River Farms kurobuta pork belly, the Wagyu of pork, that came with a simple frisée citrus salad and was also paired with the Cuvée.

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The belly was followed by my favorite dish of the night, a perfectly cooked and simply seasoned Snake River Farms Wagyu New York steak with green peppercorn demi that was paired with Signorello’s Cab.

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The final course was a Snake River Farms Wagyu ribeye wellington that was liberally showered with truffles and served with Signorello Padrone, named after Ray’s late father. Unfortunately, my ribeye was cooked to a tragic medium-well. Fortunately, the silky smooth Padrone was more than enough to make up for it.

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Dinner was nothing short of phenomenal. Snake River Farms’ Kobe-style beef is the best you can get short of flying to Japan and Signorello wines are quality even I could taste. If you’d like to try the highest quality steak available on Oahu, try looking for Snake River Farms at BLT Steak, Budnamujip, Michel’s at the Colony Surf, Stage, and Vintage Cave.

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Despite what this blog may lead you to believe, I have a day job.  Since getting back to Hawaii in January, I have been working a normal M-F (usually) 8-5ish gig – followed by a 5 a.m. wakeup each Saturday to help with a venture at our most popular farmers’ market.  I did the same before this trip and the one before it, and also get to play food with my friends when they pop up – and absolutely love it.

Even if I didn’t have the privilege of being a very small part of something so amazing, today’s long-awaited opening of the brick and mortar would have been a huge deal to me.  The story behind the Pig and the Lady could have been taken from a Hollywood script and the food is innovative, brilliant and delicious.

They have received significant recognition and acclaim, most recently #1 in HONOLULU Magazine’s 100 Best Dishes and the Hale Aina Gold Award for Best Vietnamese Restaurant, before having a physical location.  Despite all of this, what makes PTL special are the people behind it.

Work hard, play hard has never been better exemplified.  The Le family (and their team) work their asses off.  I could not continue to function on what little sleep they get, and have been getting for years now.  The lack of sleep may contribute to them being hilarious as individuals, and especially together, but it is not the only reason.  For all of the early mornings and late nights of grueling work, they are fun, happy, light-hearted, and truly love what they do.

Today’s soft opening of their restaurant was both a celebration and a culmination of all of the above: the story, the food and the people behind both.  The restaurant itself, located in walking distance from my day job at 83 N. King St. in Honolulu’s Chinatown, has the best-designed interior I have seen in the state.  It feels like you’re walking into a restaurant in San Francisco, Seattle or somewhere else where people value the aesthetics of a restaurant as much as the food itself.  The front of the house and kitchen had faces both familiar and new to me, and those that I know are among the best in the industry.

The food was, as always, phenomenal.  There were some new dishes and some I had enjoyed before and everything was on point and perfectly executed.  The cocktails were on par with the food and the beer list extremely impressive.

A number of friends, family, industry people and lovers of food were at the invite-only event and it was a big lovefest.  I’m grateful to have been among those lucky enough to attend and am looking forward to many great meals to come.

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I had been away during Hawaii Food & Wine for the past couple years and was looking forward to being able to join in on the fun this year. Food & Wine brings some of the top chefs from across the country to Oahu for a week of fun. Due to work, I wasn’t able to fully participate, but it was definitely a week to remember.

Most Saturdays I wake up early and help with The Pig & The Lady at the KCC Farmers’ Market. On the Saturday of Food & Wine, my favorite chef from the Continental US, Chris Cosentino came for breakfast with his family. It was a real treat to serve food I believe in to Offal Chris and they enjoyed their meal.

That night, I attended the “Taste Our Love for the Land” event at the Hawaii Convention Center. There were 19 brilliant chefs cooking up their best and you could revisit their stations as much as you wanted. The huge assortment of wine, craft cocktails, and beer helped wash down each tasty bite.

The chefs took a variety of approaches and it was a treat to see such talented minds going for it! I didn’t get to taste everything, but there were a couple stations I paid a few visits. My top three were: Mark Noguchi’s Kaneohe He`e, Russell Moore’s Grilled goat-king trumpet mushroom kofte kebab, and Ed Kenney’s “Grilled Pa’i’ai and Kukui Nut Broth.”

Gooch’s tako was tender, fresh, and had perfect company courtesy of Ho Farms. Goat was a popular protein and Hawaii’s own Sheldon Simeon laid down a mean kilawen. Russell Moore’s goat kebab was really, really good. In a world of tako, goat, and uni, Town’s Ed Kenney and Dave Caldiero served up a true taste of their love for the land. Pa’i’ai is hand-pounded taro, which was the first staple crop of Hawaii, and I don’t think there is a more signature ingredient in Hawaiian cuisine. The dish was earthy, delicious, and told a story.

As good as the food (and drink) was, the company equalled it; there were chefs, farmers, and food enthusiasts from across the globe and many key players in Hawaii’s food future. It was a well-lubricated, four-hour foodgasm in a beautiful setting with tons of great people.

While I only managed to get a taste of Hawaii Food & Wine, it was one of the best bites I’ve ever had. Hawaii is a great place to be.

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As Cinqo de Mayo approached there was a lot of talk about pozole. I couldn’t recall hearing about the pre-Columbian Mexican soup prior to this year and it captured my interest. There are several different versions of pozole, but the most intriguing was pozole rojo, made with hominy, chillies and, usually, pork. I didn’t make it to the Honolulu’s Cinqo de Mayo celebration to try Zaratez‘ take on pozole, but hit up Serg’s, a place near my house that makes some really good tacos. For Cindqo de Mayo they offered a pozole verde, which was greasy, salty, and a huge disappointment. It became clear to me that I would have to take matters into my own hands.

Mercado De La Raza is the only Mexican grocery that I know of on island and was naturally my first stop for ingredients. I picked up dried chilies, some really funky purple corn, and cal (calcium hydroxide). The total was only $4! I went to my usual purveyor of pig in Chinatown and picked up half of a head. The butcher lady was a little put off by my wanting an half of a head instead of my usual jowl. Her confusion and the language barrier led to me getting a boneless half head, but it didn’t end up affecting the outcome.

Pig Head Pozole:
pig head (1/2 head) *shave or burn off any hair
hominy (made from 1 lbs dried corn and cal)
dried chilies (4 hot, 4 medium)
onion (1)
garlic (8 cloves)
carrot (1)
celery (1 stalk)
pork stock (2 cups homemade frozen concentrate)
water
cumin
chili powder
salt
pepper

Garnish:
crispy pig ear
cilantro
radish
cabbage
avocado
lime

The party started with sautéing 1/2 of the onion in a big, heavy pot, then throwing in the carrot, celery, and a few cloves of garlic before adding the head, pork stock, and water. I added cumin, salt, and pepper, brought everything to a boil and let it simmer for about 5 hours, periodically skimming the surface.


Once everything was under control with the soup, I moved on to the hominy.

Seriously beautiful corn!

Seriously beautiful corn!


I filled another big, heavy pot with water, added the corn and the cal, and brought it to a boil. I let it simmer for about 3 hours, then shut off the heat and left it on the stove overnight.

The pot with the corn turned a vivid gold.

The pot of corn turned a vivid gold.


After about 5 hours, I removed the soup from the heat, strained the liquid, pulled apart the head meat, then refrigerated both overnight.

Walking the Snout to Tail walk.

Walking the snout to tail walk.


The next day, I skimmed off the fat from the surface of the now congealed broth (which was surprisingly very little) and brought it back to a boil. Next, I chopped the gelatinous chunk of meat into manageable pieces and added them to the broth. I drained the corn and rinsed it several times to be sure to remove all traces of the cal, then added it to the soup.


Prior to cooking the head, I removed the ear and set it aside. At this time, I put the ear in a small pan with water and brought it to a boil. I dumped out the scummy water, replaced it with fresh water and returned the ear to a boil. I added cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper, then simmered the ear for about 2.5 hours. While this was going on, I toasted my chilies, then sauteed the other half onion and garlic in the fat I scraped off from the top of the broth. I removed the ear from the pan and used the liquid to rehydrate the chilies, which took about 30 minutes. I put the chillies, onion, and garlic into the food processor with a little of the rehydrating liquid and pulsed it into a paste.


I added the chili paste to the soup and let it simmer for a few hours. That was pretty much it for the soup. I cut the ear into thin strips, sprinkled them with sea salt and put them under the broiler. For garnish I went with the ear, avocado, radish, cabbage, cilantro, and lime.


The slices of ear lost their crispiness once they met the broth and will not be including in future pozole endeavors. I also forget Mexican oregano when I was at the market and will be including it next time around. The broth was really good, full of porky richness and a nice amount of heat. The meat was tender, pieces of skin like butter, and the hominy very bean-like. There are relatively few ingredients involved and the only solids in the soup itself are pork and hominy. The garnishes provided interesting textures and, with the exception of the not-so-crispy crispy pig ear, everything in the bowl got along swimmingly. I’m my own harshest critic and was very pleased with the outcome. I have a new favorite soup!

Orale!

Orale!


Last Saturday at the KCC farmers market, my friend Nanette let me know that Hawaiian Red Veal had brought some offal to sell, including two tongues. I’ve eaten tongue, but this would be my first time cooking it. MA’O Organic Farms had some baby root vegetables that looked like the perfect companion for the tongue.

Pinot Braised Hawaiian Red Veal Tongue:
Hawaiian Red Veal tongue (about 1.25 lbs)
guanciale (2 1/4″ slices from my home cured guanciale, cut into 1/4″ strips)
butter (2T for the guanciale, 1T for roux, 1T for mushrooms)
shallots (4, quartered, from Pit Farm)
carrots (1 purple, 1 yellow, from Pit Farm)
celery (1 stalk, from Pit Farm)
roma tomatoes (3, skinned and cored, from Ho Farms)
garlic (2 cloves, smashed)
thyme (3 sprigs)
bay leaves (2 from tree at my house)
wine (about 3 cups of pinot noir)
chicken stock (1-2 cups, homemade)
Hawaiian sea salt
black pepper
parsley (from my garden for garnish)
Small Kine Farm baby portabella mushrooms (handfull, halving the bigger ones)


Once in the kitchen, the first thing I had to do was remove the skin from the tongue. I simmered the tongue in water for 1 hour

then removed the skin with a knife.

Next, I rendered the fat out of the guanciale in butter, then removed the guanciale.

I browned the lightly floured tongue in the guanciale fat/butter and set it aside. Next, I added shallot, carrot, and celery to the pan. When they were about ready, I added the garlic, then the tomato. I returned the tongue and the guanciale to the pan, then added the wine, chicken stock, thyme, and bay leaves and seasoned with salt and pepper.

I let everything simmer on low heat for 4 hours, turning the tongue a couple times and making sure there was enough liquid in the pan. I removed the tongue and strained the braising liquid. I returned the liquid to a pan and added some roux to thicken it into a sauce. I sauteed some Small Kine Farm baby portabella mushrooms in butter, then added them to the sauce. I put the tongue in with the sauce and mushrooms and warmed it back up. For service, all I had to do was remove the tongue, slice it, plate it, top it with the sauce, and serve with the root vegetables.

Roasted MA’O baby root vegetables:
1 pound baby turnips, radishes, beets, carrots
thyme (3 sprigs)
rosemary (1 sprig)
Hawaiian sea salt
black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

I went with a simple roast for the root vegetables. I scrubbed them in the sink, removed the tops and bottoms, and tossed them in the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. They were ready to party after about 30 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

I was extremely satisfied with how the meal turned out. A knife was not required for the tongue, the sauce was very rich and flavorful, and the vegetables were crisp and delicious.

I enjoy pasta…a lot… I typically make pasta a couple times a week and usually sauce it with some sort of ragu. Hawai’i has come a long way in the past few years and I’m able to source most of the vegetables I use locally. Meat is another story. There is not a single butcher shop on Oahu. Finding local meat is no easy task. Unfortunately, I buy the majority of my meat from Safeway; more specifically, from the small section of soon to expire meat that is discounted 30-50 percent at the Manoa Safeway. I buy whatever is looking the best and the best value. Today there were some nice looking bone-in rib eyes and I took one home with me to make a ragu.

Rib Eye Ragu:
rib eye steak (1.25lbs, bone-in)
roma tomatoes (16 small/medium from Ho Farms)
onion (small from Pit Farm)
carrot (1 purple, 1 yellow from Pit Farm)
celery (1 stalk from Pit Farm)
garlic (2-3 cloves)
chili (2 Hawaiian chilis from pit Farm)
fresh herbs (minced rosemary, sage, basil, parsley and a bay leaf from garden)
wine (1/2 cup or so, i used prosecco that had gone flat)
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the steak into chunks and brown them and the bone in olive oil. I like to get everything nice and brown. While browning the beef, I took care of the tomatoes. I cut a small x onto the bottom of each tomato, emerse them in boiling water until the skin begins to peel, then submerge them in an ice bath. Next, I remove the skin, seeds, and base of stem, then chop them up finely. Once the beef is browned to your liking, add the onions, carrot, and celery. I chop my mirepoix very finely, how you do it is up to you. Once the mirepoix is soft and looking ready, I add the garlic. The garlic cooks fast and I drop the herbs in just before the garlic is done. Once everything is ready, I deglaze the pan with wine, then add the tomatoes. I like heat and drop a couple chilis in to give the ragu a kick. This concludes the active cooking part of the sauce. All you have to do now is reduce the heat to low, stir occasionally, and add water if things get too dry. I usually simmer my sauces for 4+ hours, but was in a bit of a rush today and was only able to simmer for a little over 2 hours. It was long enough for the meat to become fork tender and that’s all you really need. I removed the bone, the chilies, and the bay leaf, pulled apart the steak, and made sure the ragu was properly seasoned. Since I made ravioli the day before, I went with quick and easy hand cut pasta to go with the ragu.

Pasta
00 flour (about 3 cups)
eggs (3 local eggs)
olive oil (splash)
water (splash)
salt (pinch)

I put 1 cup of flour, the eggs, salt, and the olive oil into my kitchenaid stand mixer and blend well, then add the rest of the flour. Add flour or water until proper consistency is achieved. The dough should no longer be sticky, but not be dry enough to fall into a bunch of little pieces. Once the dough is looking good, I let the mixer do its magic for 10 minutes, then wrap the dough in plastic, and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes. I run the dough through my manual pasta machine and stop at number 6 or 7 depending on which type of pasta I’m making. My machine starts at 0 and the highest number (thinnest pasta) is 9. Since I was going with a rich, heavy sauce, I went for a thicker pasta to absorb the goodness. Once the pasta is rolled to the desired thickness, I flour both sides, fold it over itself a couple times, and cut it with a knife. I usually do strips a little under a half inch wide. My personal preference is for wider, thicker noodles. After the noodles are cut, I unfold them and toss them on a floured surface. It only takes a few minutes for the pasta to cook. Once the pasta was cooked, I tossed it with the ragu, and topped with freshly grated pecorino.

The outcome: I make a lot of ragus and a lot of pasta, so I’ve had plenty of practice. The practice pays off and I had another delicious meal. The rib eye ragu really tasted like rib eye and was quite good. The pasta was its normal, wonderful self.