28 August, 2007

Cochinita Pibil con Aloha: The Accidental Foodie in Kauai

The third in a series of occasional articles about cooking in Kauai.

I don't go to gourmet stores. OK, I do and I love the the artisanal meats, the European cheeses, the beautifully package pastas. But, when I am in these stores, such as Dean & Delucca or Fox & Obel or Katzinger's, I am a tourist, and I hate feeling like a tourist. Over the past couple of years my cooking has been evolving to working with ingredients that I can get nearby. Now I can't say this is about "eating local," but I got tired of travelling fourteen miles to the nearest Trader Joe's, or thirty miles to the nearest Whole Foods to stock my kitchen on a weekly basis (I still go to Joe's about one a month). So my cooking and has changed to take advantage of the best of what I can get from Walt's (only a five minute walk). Now that Farmer's markets are in full swing, we are getting wonderful produce from Michigan and great poultry from downstate. It's all a matter of getting to know your surroundings; we have been living in the Southland for almost four years, and I am still finding new and interesting places to get food. In fact I am starting a new web page devoted to "Small market" shopping in the Southland. We'll see how it goes.

Finding ingredients close at hand was a little different in Kauai. An initial impression of the Hawaiian Islands may be that you get only pineapple and sugar locally and everything else is shipped in from the mainland. Adding to that impression is the fact that Hawaii still holds the top slot as the state that consumes the most Spam(who doesn't love potted meat?). However, as reported in a previous post, there is a lot of great local produce available at the Farmer's Markets (Called the Sunshine Markets). But what about the meat?

In Kauai I saw only one butcher cold case in the big supermarkets and when I saw it, it was not in use. Usually I found meat packaged in Styrofoam trays, I suspect it comes that way from the mainland. I suppose I could have asked around to find out when the would have the case open (If ever) but I was already cutting into beach time. I had discovered on the Internet that there is a hog farm on Kauai, I just couldn't find it in the market.

Then my mom found a newspaper ad touting island raised pork should on sale at the Big Save. I immediately rolled up to Hanalei to pick my pork, but they were out (**no rain checks, supply may vary by store**). Phooey. I looked in Kapaa, Lihue, and then we went to the Southside.

photo credit: Ekarhu

In Waimea, we hit the shave ice shack then onto the Big Save where I found my quarry.

At this point, gentle readers, I should be sharing with you some hooped up Hawaiian recipe for a pork filled luau, and at the time, I thought about doing that, but I didn't want to dig a hole in our gracious hosts' yard. But the yard does play an important role in what we made.

A Mexican Luau.

One of my favorite party dishes is slow roasted pork tacos. It started last year after I went on a tirade about an article by Mark Bittman where he said it was impossible to find a good taco outside of the Southwest. I had adapted a Rick Bayless recipe for pit roasted pork wrapped in banana leaves. since then I made it several times using a whole roast and omitting the banana leaves. It's not that it is hard to get banana leaves in Chicago, they can be found frozen in Asian or Latin groceries, but I didn't want to make a special trip, and I was using the smoker. In Kauai things were switched around: I didn't have the smoker, but I did have a stand of banana leaves.

So I selected a leaf and gave it a good washing. The night before I marinated the pork in citrus juice, garlic and spices.

The next day I arranged the leaves on a roasting pan placed the steaks, and poured the marinade over top.

Then on a gas grill preheated, set on low, for three hours, until the internal temp it at least 180F up to 200F if you really want the meat to shred.

While the pork was cooking I made a habanero salsa: I roasted in a dry skillet six peppers, 3 cloves of garlic then threw them in a blender with 20 grams of seeded guava and some coconut milk.

Time to eat.

The banana leaves gave the pork an anise flavoring that blended perfectly with the marinade. Serve with red onions pickled overnight in citrus juice and you have the perfect Yucatán treat in Kauai.



Josh said...

perhaps your most impressive yet, Andrew. creativity shining through.

rachel said...

Right on Andy. We have been inspired by that Bayless recipe and many conversations with you and that is one of my favorite dishes. The pickled onions seal the deal.

We are also on the quest for local meats. Mostly it takes us to the Bravo or the Asian market where your fish are still swimming.