Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #15: Loco Moco

The June-July issue of Food Network Magazine claims that the loco moco at Hukilau Cafe in La'ie, Oahu is the best burger in Hawai'i, and our representative for its feature 50 states, 50 burgers. The staff of the Hawaii Magazine have their own opinion of where to find the best loco moco, but no matter what everyone agrees that the loco moco was created in sleepy little Hilo town.

The story goes that the loco moco dish was created in 1949 by the Inouye family, who owned the Lincoln Grill in Hilo. A group of boys from the Lincoln Wreckers sports club contributed to its creation. Because the boys did not have a lot of spending money, they asked Nancy Inouye to put some rice in a saimin bowl, one hamburger patty on the rice and brown gravy over the hamburger and rice. She charged twenty-five cents for this, and it was much cheaper than ordering a hamburger steak entree. One of the boys, George Okimoto, was nicknamed "Crazy" because of the wild way he played football. Crazy in Spanish is loco so the boys named the dish loco moco just on a whim. Moco had no special meaning except it rhymed with loco. At first it was not on the regular menu but, because of its popularity with the Wreckers, it became a fixture at Lincoln Grill. The egg was added later.

Cafe 100 has the most varieties of loco moco including the Halloweenie loco, loco with spam, portugues sausage, smokies, kalua, etc. It's basically peasant fare, not for the weight conscious, and definitely not for those people that don't like their food touching each other. Loco moco is a one bowl, throw everything together meal buried in greasy brown gravy. That's what makes it so comforting, and so easy to make at home.

Our favorite under 1/2 an hour loco moco:
May's teriyaki patties grilled on the Foreman grill
Lots of white rice, or if we're lucky enough to have extras of Ken's fried rice, we use that
Brown gravy from powder
Eggs made to order

Local celebrity chef Alan Wong serves his own version of loco moco at the Pineapple room with a kiawe wood-grilled Maui Cattle Co. beef patty and two farm-fresh sunny-side-up eggs on a bed of fried rice. A rich veal jus blankets the dish.

I think Alan Wong's food is super sexy, but his version of loco moco is a bit too frou frou for us. Sometimes we gotta just stick with the basics. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #14: Plan B

The problem with mini "staycations (Kona Village) is that Sunday comes and not only are there errands to run and people to drive around, but Sunday dinner is still on.  I rushed back to Hilo (about 2 hours away), went home to find out that my son had the house key, went to find him at the beach, waited for him for another hour while he was at a birthday party, then took him to batting. While waiting to take him back to the beach, I put the lau and deli roll into the slow cooker for dinner.  When we finally came back from the beach, the laulau was still cooking. At 5 pm, with a 6 pm dinner, it was time for Plan B!!!
Mom's "When We Were Really Poor and Cod was Really Cheap" Plan B dinner
1 package of black cod steaks (no need to defrost)
tomatoes, chunked
onions, thinly sliced
garlic salt and pepper to taste

Put ingredients in a pot, cover and cook until fish is cooked. Don't need to stir. This "fish stew" is even better the next day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kona Village - come to the Big Island

October 10, 2009.
The advantage of being a teacher (in addition to having the luxury of being the rubber slipper contessa) is that we get the same breaks as our kids, so what better way to take advantage of living in Hawaii then to enjoy a "staycation" at Kona Village.

I left the kids and hubby behind and spent a couple days with the Ula La Red Hat ladies. Kona Village is a no phones, no television resort that includes all the amenities with none of the fussiness.  We stayed in a hale that led us right to the sand (major upgrade because they were slow - NICE). I finished three books under the shade. The best part is that you don't have to leave the resort. All meals are included and ocean activities are free (paddleboarding, kayak, snorkeling, scuba).

Lunch is an outdoor buffet by the water with an extensive salad bar, hot dishes, items from the grill and an extensive dessert assortment. Stake a place under the shade, order an Arnold Palmer (ice tea and lemonade) and have a leisurely lunch. You can tell the quality of a business by the staff. I've been going to Kona Village for about 8 years and I still see the same staff. They are attentive without being pushy, and they get to know you. They remember you when you return. Their fish of the day grilled "burger style" are totally delicious and the make your own sundae with tropical homeade ice creams will put you over the top. The best thing to do after lunch is hang out at the pool and just float or go under the hammock by the hale and take a nap.

Dinner is a more formal affair, although it's still outdoors with live dinner music and the "tiki torches." For dinner, men have to actually wear collared shirts. No t-shirts and surf short. Ladies, no bathing suits. For dinner, you can choose one of everything, from appetizers to dessert. Here was our menu for the evening:
Appetizers: pork ribs, oven roasted tomato and goat cheese, lemon ahi sashimi, salt and pepper shrimp, duo of ahi and Kona kampachi, pineapple and coconut float and Loeffler corn rice noodle (right). Each appetizer comes in little amuse bouche sizes so try it. I had the ahi and kampachi combo to keep with my seafood theme. The fish was fresh, well seasoned and the furikake crackers was a nice texture change.

Soup: chicken long rice soup or Manhattan style chowder. Again, seafood, went with the chowder. The base broth for the chowder was what made it so yummy.

Salads: local greens, chilled soba salad or caesar with chicken, ahi or plain. I had the caesar with ahi. I think they overdressed the salad, but I like my salad very lightly dressed, so ask when you have preferences.

Entrees - veal, prime rib, jumbo prawns, fish of the day, rack of lamb, split lobster tails, opakapaka "Hong Kong" style, beef tenderloin and shrimp tempura combo. I had the fish of the day, monchong that was flaky and well seasoned. I've never eaten monchong so it was a nice surprise.

Dessert - chocolate flourless cake, apple crisp, bread pudding, assorted ice creams, assorted evening drinks. I had the chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and then we rolled to our room for girl talk, irish coffee, and homemade cookies. When you get back to your hale, your bed is turned down, an orchid on your pillow and a water bottle by your bedstand.

Breakfast - same deal - pick and choose or on Sunday, go paddleboarding in the morning and come back at 10 for Sunday brunch.

If you're a kamaaina, call them directly. You'll get a different room rate. There's so much food that you will never starve, but if you want to go a little cheaper, they offer rooms at discount and 50% off of meals which makes it even more enticing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sunday Dinner Week #13: Naughty Steak

I've been watching The Naughty Kitchen on Oxygen about Chef Blythe Beck, an executive chef in Texas who keeps touting the idea that her food is naughty because she uses lots of butter and other bad for you ingredients that are so good. She's obnoxious, and her food doesn't really look that special, but for Ken's birthday, we are being a little naughty by bathing our steaks (bone-in NY steaks on sale at Safeway this week for $4.99/lb. plus the $2 off coupon) in real butter. It doesn't count as naughty steak if you don't use real butter.

What made the steak extra good was that the butter actually made the outside of the steak crispy, or butter crunchy. I think, as always, that the secret is in the pan. We used a well-seasoned large cast iron pan that holds the heat and browns the butter. Nice!

Go alongs: sweet onion carmelized tart and garlic and butter mushrooms.
Dessert: Double chocolate glazed red velvet cupcakes (Ken's on a cupcake kick).

Sweet Onion Carmelized Tart
1 sheet puff pastry
poke holes, crimp edges to create a crust, put into 400 degree oven until golden brown

slice onions, carmelize in olive oil and thyme
put on baked puff pastry and put into oven for about 5 minutes.

When we make this again, we will divide the pastry into thirds so each strip will have crust, because the edge of this tart with the crust is so much better than the middle. The onions are also good on the steak, even with the puff pastry.

Ken's Double Chocolate Glazed Red Velvet Cupcakes
Frosting on velvet cakes are normally vanilla frosting, but I like chocolate even though chocolate is my enemy (melting chocolate fiasco from week #4). The directions for the chocolate frosting calls for melting chocolate in the microwave for 5 minutes at 50% power, mixing halfway through. Nowhere did it say add fat, add dairy, add butter.

Again, FAILURE with the chocolate! My chocolate, half way through, turned into semi smooth, semi sticky, goopy mess. By the end of the 5 minutes, I had dusty, burnt crap. Attempt #2, scrap the microwave method. I cannot melt chocolate in my 23 year old microwave. I admit defeat and I'm moving on. The double boiler method wasn't working either until Ken added butter. Success.

Easy red velvet cupcakes
1 box German chocolate cake mix (it's cheating, but it's premeasured)
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 T baking cocoa
1 bottle of red food coloring (1 oz.) - I got it on sale, otherwise, this one ingredient makes this recipe expensive

Mix. The red food coloring turns the batter into a bright red, Halloween, fake blood color. Cool! Put into a 350 oven for 19-23 minutes for cupcakes (I lower it to 325 because I use dark, non-stick cupcake pans.) Cool.

Melt chocolate and mix in with some ready made chocolate frosting (this frosting cuts the sickening sweetness of the store bought frosting). Frost, enjoy.

Have a great week and happy grinding!