Holiday Category

(food)porn ed. 2012 – Part 3

I found some of these juicy bits hiding in my archives. Wow, I’m flush out now after poring through hundreds of photos.

Guess that means I better get eating!

New Year’s Eve Seafood Stew

Feasting on seafood stew has become tradition for us every New Year’s Eve. The basking and bubbling of clams, crab, meaty fish, and aromatic vegetables, in a silky, buttery tomato broth, have come to symbolize all that each year brings, from its boiling points to its steady simmers to finally, its moments of celebration.

This is a recipe I adapted from the Carla Hall and Clinton Kelly recipe for Pike Place Market Seafood Stew. The biggest difference is that I make a Quick Shrimp Stock to enrich the stew, and less white wine. I always prefer amplified seafood flavors.

It’s simple to make and customize this stew to whatever seafood you prefer or whatever looks fresh at the market. If you use Alaskan King Crab legs, make sure the crab isn’t too salty and its shell should be hard and crisp, not too pliable.

Making the stew (before adding any seafood) a day ahead and letting it sit overnight will help concentrate the flavor. These types of stews are always better the next day.

Ingredients
2 Leeks, chopped (white part only)
1 1/2 to 2 bulbs Fennel, chopped (save some of the green fronds from the top for garnish)
5 Shallots, chopped
5 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2 28 ounce cans whole San Marzano Tomatoes
2 tablespoons Tomato Paste
1/2 bunch fresh Parsley, chopped
1/2 bunch fresh Basil, chiffonade
1 cup dry White Wine
5 cups Quick Shrimp Stock, strained
1 32 oz box of low-sodium Chicken Broth
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes
1 dozen Littleneck Clams
1 pound shell-on Wild Shrimp, deveined and peeled (shells saved for Quick Shrimp Stock)
1 pound Sea Bass or other meaty white fish, cut into 2″ pieces
4 or 5 Alaskan King Crab Legs, cut at segments, and scissor cut for shell removal when eaten
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tablespoons Butter, with extra to enrich stock
Salt and Pepper
Crusty Bread

For the Quick Shrimp Stock:
Over high heat, add the shells from the peeled shrimp to an 8-quart stock pot and saute them with a tiny bit of olive oil until they crisp up and are golden brown. Add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and then simmer until the stock has reduced by about half, about 15 minutes. Strain stock and toss out shells. Set aside.

For the Stew:
In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and butter, then the leeks, fennel, shallots, garlic, and half of the parsley. Sauté the vegetables with a wooden spoon until they are softened and begin to caramelize, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and mix it in with the vegetables, then add the wine and shrimp stock. Stir for a few minutes, making sure to get any fond or the caramelized brown bits at the bottom of the pot, stirred into the mixture. Hand crush the tomatoes into the stew, then add the remaining puree from the can. Stir in the basil, red pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Return the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so the stew is at an even simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Check seasonings, adjusting if necessary. Add butter to further enrich the stew and make it have a silky finish.

Add the fish and the clams, removing clams to a plate as they open. Discard any unopened clams. Then add the shrimp, cover, and cook until the seafood finishes cooking, about 10 minutes. Finally, add the crab and the clams, just until they are heated through in the stew.

To serve, spoon stew into big bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley, fennel fronds, or a bit of fresh tarragon. Serve with chunks of crusty bread or toast up a halved baguette, rub with fresh garlic, and slather with herb butter.

Ring in the New Year, ready for anything! 🙂

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 4

Needless to say the soreness of my joints welcomed a jacuzzi, sauna, and steam in the morning; all the more because I was about to head out for my first open-door helicopter ride. The forecast showed heavy clouds, strong winds, and rain, but there was no turning back now. I was off to Inter-Island Helicopters for a private 60 minute tour of the island in their peacock blue Robinson R-44.

Inter-Island provided exceptional service despite the shoddy weather and it did make for an exciting ride. I actually enjoyed the pitching and weaving of the helicopter, as well as, the occasional sea and rain sprays across my face accompanying each turn. It made for the kind of ride I was hoping to experience! The Napali Coast looked mysterious and even more dangerous with the misty tumultuous weather. I don’t think I could ever tire of the views.

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After my flight of boisterous fancy, I had a roaring appetite. Jordan and I decided to let our bellies lead us through the day. We got in our midnight blue Camaro convertible, and headed toward Hanapepe and Lihue where we could stop at a local sporting goods store and hopefully, enjoy some local comfort food.

On the way to Hanapepe, we spotted Paco’s Tacos food truck parked in an empty parking lot. We figured, meh, probably nothing anyway. Let’s keep moving.

Pfft! Yeah, right!

These tacos were some of the most memorable morsels from our whole trip. Super fresh, grilled mahi-mahi tacos with shredded cabbage, lime, pico de gallo and cilantro sauce. And equally good carnitas and carne asada tacos. Hit da spot.

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After admiring some especially kitschy refrigerator magnets at a local store, we drove to Lihue to hit up Haimura Saimin. Saimin is a Hawaiian original that mixes Japanese ramen, Chinese mein, and Filipino flavors, into a big bowl of steaming savory broth. It’s Hawaiian comfort in a bowl, and the joint speaks for itself. It’s the epitome of a tropical island diner complete with a menu just as small and quaint as the place itself.

I highly recommend ordering a bunch of chicken skewers and putting the chicken pieces right into your bowl of saimin, along with generous amounts of hot mustard, hot sauce, chili vinegar, and a little soy sauce. Own your saimin!

We ordered the lilikoi chiffon pie for a little sweetness. Imagine if you scooped a chunk of bubbles from the top of a bubble bath, sprayed it through with tangy sweet passion fruit, and topped it with fluffy whipped cream. It was an ultra-airy end to a heavy, savory lunch.

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Last spot on our food tour was Fish Express which is a full-on local “deli” that offers a wide variety of fresh Hawaiian fare including local fish, poke, fish jerky, and raw seafood. And if you’re lucky enough to get there for lunch (which we weren’t unfortunately), they also offer Hawaiian-style sandwiches and gourmet lunch entrees like fish “blackened with guava basil” or “macadamia nut crusted [fish] with lilikoi.”

We decided on a bunch of funky pokes and ahi peppered jerky to go. And we also were pleasantly surprised to find boiled peanuts – one of Jordan’s all-time favorite snacks from the South! Who would have thought we’d be eating boiled peanuts and kimchee octopus poke in a parking lot of a Kauai-ian deli in the middle of the Pacific?

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Ok, I lied. We still had some room left for another sweet. After a little mobile research, we pulled into a strip mall parking lot and walked into Tropical Dreams which offers super-premium gourmet ice cream. Started by husband and wife team John and Nancy Edney who source more than 50% of their ingredients locally and are dedicated to using environmentally-friendly and sustainable means of production for their ice cream, this was the best ice cream I’d ever had. I mean, EVER.

The proprietor of the place – a “expat” from NYC named Daniel – was feeling extra chatty (queue teenage son’s eye roll), so we got foodie star treatment! While giving us taste after taste of the incredibly delicious ice cream, Daniel proceeded to illuminate us on his strong opinions on fiber optics, entrepreneurial ventures, Kauai, and why Tropical Dreams covers their ice cream bins with lids despite snotty tourists turning their noses up because they can’t see all the flavors on display.

After I literally tasted every flavor, I landed on chocolate coconut almond to which Daniel insisted he add a generous dollop of peanut butter. This was seriously flavorful ice cream. If you’re ever on the Hawaiian Islands, definitely try to find a Tropical Dreams shop!

Sigh, wish I could have gotten a better picture. This definitely doesn’t do the real thing justice.

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After a much needed nap back at the ranch, we couldn’t believe it but before we knew it, we were getting in the car again to go to dinner at Josselin’s Tapas Bar & Grill.

I know.

But it’s OK. We were on vacation. Isn’t gluttony a virtue when you’re on vacation?

It might have been the full belly talking, but I wasn’t too hyped on going to Josselin’s despite all the positive recommendations. Although I’d been eating very well, I wasn’t so sure that fine dining restaurants on Kauai were doing anything that interesting beyond dishes that could satisfy the greatest common denominator of flavor palates visiting the island day after day.

Thankfully, I was proven wrong by some dishes at Josselin’s! It started with the “muffin” assortment which included miniature biscuit-like rolls flavored with ginger, Thai curry, and cilantro. I know I’ve got a bread “thing” but these really perked up my taste buds.

The watermelon salad was disappointing, but the naan with spicy merguez, roasted eggplant, and mint was a huge win.

What was truly the pièce de résistance, though, was the 36-hour braised pork belly with apple kimchee and Lehua honey – an unbelievable, locally sourced honey from bees that feed exclusively on the Lehua flower which only grows on the ohi’a tree.

The honey glaze created a sweet candied shell keeping the wonderful juices inside every chunk of pork you pulled off with your fork. No knife necessary. The kimchee splashed spicy and tart refreshment at the back of the throat, whilst the salty sweetness of the meat meandered over the tongue. Chestnut, vanilla and basil also remarkably came through each bite.

The experience was kind of astounding. In fact, it was so exceptional that we finished off most of it, despite our stomachs being full to bursting.

Needless to say we did not order any dessert! And this time I’m not lying!

Our Adventure in Kauai: Day 3

Honopu Ridge Trail kicked my butt. But it was the kind of butt-kicking that hurts so good afterwards. There was fear, red dirt, off-key singing, green explosions, and chubby blocks of fresh ahi jerky.

As we piled into a dusty mini-flatbed truck that smelled “natural,” and met our guide Steve – 60ish, unkempt hair, wiry limbs, and deep wrinkled tan – I knew we were in for a visceral adventure.

Although the hike up to what I coined the “Red Dirt Ridge” is only about 5-7 miles total, it requires getting up close and personal with dense greenery, root-ridden uphill trails, and your own body. You’ve also got to be patient because you may do some backtracking. But boy, is it worth all that red dust getting up in those tiny crevices (yeah, you’ll know what I mean after you take a shower).

Although many who visit Kauai opt see the Na Pali Coast by air; nothing beats seeing it off a powder dirt “cliff” carved by time and tropical winds.

When you do this trek, it feels as if your mind moves from one world to the next a la Cloud Atlas. First you’re in Nea So Copros (for me, Chicago), then you go back in time to the greenest of Green (when Nature still perseveres despite humans blowing themselves up), then you’re on Mars, and then you gaze out from the apex to the Blue Yonder where you imagine everyone talks with an overly elaborate, overly romanticized 19th century vocabulary.

I know I sound corny, but this place does inspire such grandiosity and I unapologetically bathed myself in it. It’s the kind of Stuff that helps me get through the languishing of the Everyday, every day.

Fully dirty and fully content, Steve had a nice detour planned for us and I’d recommend it to any visitor. Doesn’t require a pinch of the physical effort as Honopu, but it’s quite a sight. The Pu’u Hinahina Lookout lays out a spectacular view of Waimea Canyon. You can see all the way down to the Pacific whilst your two feet stand firmly planted on a concrete platform.

We had a sleepy, windy ride back as we listened to Steve crooning his heart out to Marvin Gaye. A pit stop at JoJo’s Shave Ice capped off our trek. I had the #12 Fruity Special, a pineapple-orange-lillikoi-macnut ice cream treat. Jordan had the strawberry-mango-coconut-vanilla cream-macnut ice cream flavor blast. We both agreed the macadamia nut ice cream trumped the shaved ice.

Sushi and drinks at the Stevenson Library back at the Hyatt didn’t have a chance of competing against chomping down homemade ahi tuna jerky in the middle of the Kauai jungle. But the cocktails and fresh fish didn’t hurt one bit.