Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kalua Pig

Thanksgiving and fall recipes seem to be the only things going around these days, so here's some pig for reprieve -- not to mention in one its most easy, economical, and satisfying forms.

Our new(ish) apartment needed to be warmed.  So we decided we needed 6 lbs of pork butt to do it. And some spam too!

Spam musubi, realized in bite size form

The traditional Hawaiian method of cooking kalua pig (also known as kalua "pork" on the mainland) is in an imu, or an oven dug in the ground.  At my high school, some classes had fundraisers selling kalua pig instead of say, chocolate or cookies.  Someone's dad would go shoot a pig in the mountains, haul it back, and cook it in an imu that had been dug next to the football field.  If I remember correctly, they were pretty successful fundraisers.

Straight from the Aloha Stadium swap meet

Whenever I explain kalua pig to people not from Hawaii, there tends to be confusion with the "kalua" part.  "Is there Kahlua in it?" 

Kahlua - a Mexican coffee-flavored liqueur.  The name is derived from the Veracruzan Nahuatl language spoken before Spanish conquest.

Kalua - "to cook in the ground" in the Hawaiian language.

I suppose you could try braising some pork in Kahlua to make Kahlua pig.  I think liquid smoke works better though.

Questionable yet effective

While I do have a 3'x10' area at the bottom of my apartment building, it is not suitable for imu digging as it is unfortunately covered with concrete and trash cans and smells way too much like pee than it should (it's enclosed...who pees in back of their apartment??!).  But thanks to today's available artificial flavors and the technological feat that is the oven, I was able to make this at home without picking cement or getting so much as a whiff of urine.

I've seen kalua pig recipes that call for pork shoulder and am going to recommend against it.  I tried to do a mix of butt and shoulder to keep it from being overly fatty -- MISTAKE.  Unless you have several more hours to roast the shoulder longer at a lower temperature, stick with the butt in all its tender glory.  And for those who are like "ewww, BUTT!" (have you eaten a hot dog lately?) pork butt, also known as Boston butt is not actually of the butt, but rather a part of the shoulder.  So really, I was just unknowingly mixing a superior cut of the shoulder with an inferior cut of the shoulder.  Luckily though, the butt fat covered up the dryness of the shoulder.

More information about butts and shoulders can be found here.  Do not fear the butt!

Done cooking, but not shredding

Oven Roasted Kalua Pig
adapted from so so many sources
Serves about 16 people

5-6 lbs pork butt, a.k.a. Boston butt*
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon sea salt (I used orange Ala'ea salt from Hawaii)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Trim excess fat.  This is important.  I love fat as much as the next maiden of fat but I did not trim enough and, once cooked, was left with big fat globs I had to dig out.

Lay out foil in roasting pan and place pork on top.  The entire piece will be enclosed in this piece foil before cooking, so make sure it is big enough to do so.

Score pork with shallow slits, about 1/2 inch deep, all around.

Rub 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke and 1 tablespoon salt into meat (I recommend trying to maneuver this with a spoon because the liquid smoke gets into your skin and makes your hands stink even after multiple washes).

Wrap foil so that meat is completely enclosed.

Roast for about 4.5 hours, or 45 minutes a pound at 325 degrees.

Once cooled to room temperature, shred with two forks.

Dissolve remaining 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke in about 1/2 cup of water.  Pour over shredded pork and let stand til absorbed, about 10 minutes.

If you want to add cabbage (highly recommended), throw about 1/4 cup of the pork drippings in a pan, saute chopped cabbage until wilted, and mix in with pork.  I used about a half a head of cabbage in the end.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

THE Mac Salad


THIS is what you were expecting when you took your first bite of mac salad on the mainland.  But it is not what you got.

Instead, the sickly sweet hyper-tang collides with your now instantly bummed out taste buds and you try to smile mid-conversation 'cause no one eats mac salad alone, for it is a social delicacy.  You smile like you ate something you actually meant to in an attempt to hide your pervasive cringe because it was like someone took a pickle, dipped it in mayonnaise, topped it with a noodle and shoved it in your mouth.  Except it was all on your own accord.  You let this happen.  On your own watch.

You try to figure out what you're gonna do with the previously assumed as tasty mound of mac salad that, yes, is already starting to pollute the rice on your plate.  The meat is next.  So you sacrifice a few grains of rice building a barrier around the "mac salad" in hopes of saving the rest of the food on your plate.  Don't worry, it's worth it.  But those are grains of rice you will never get back.

What's that?  You're not from Hawaii?  Oh, so mac salad is supposed to taste like that?  Why would I eat a noodle-based side with rice, you ask?  Is that a serious question?  What high school did YOU go to?*

If this stuff is what defines an American classic, consider me un-American.

This is not the mustard-laden vinegary sugar pickle shit you buy in your grocer's deli island.  When it comes to mac salad, I am not one to relish in relish. 

For those of you outta the know, Zippy's is a popular Hawaiian chain that serves up plate lunches, great fried chicken, awkward spaghetti, and, of course, mac salad.

After a lot of research I feel confident when I say I have cracked Zippy's mac salad recipe.  I don't trust the dozens of recipes floating out there that call for boiled eggs, tuna, vinegar, etc and still claim to be "Hawaiian" -- especially when they came from some haole on the mainland.  While you are welcome to add those, you will be missing out on the subtly of simplicity.

Hawaiian Style Mac Salad, like Zippy's
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 cup mayonnaise, to start (Best Foods brand recommended -- but anything's fine as long as it's real full fat mayo)
1/4 cup milk (optional depending on how thick you like your dressing)
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 an onion, grated
1 stalk of celery, grated
2 carrots, shredded/grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
many twists of freshly ground black pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare elbow macaroni for the maximum cooking time as directed.  For example, if it calls for the noodles to be boiled for 8-10 minutes, boil them for 10 minutes.  Al dente noodles only get more dente when chilled.

Cool to room temperature and place in refrigerator for at least two hours, or until cold.  This can be done overnight.

In a large mixing bowl, stir mayo, mustard, salt, pepper, grated onion, grated celery, and milk (if using) until completely incorporated.

Fold in carrots.

Fold in chilled macaroni and stir so that every noodle is entrenched in mayo-y goodness.

Cover and chill in refrigerator for six hours or preferably overnight.

The next morning, stir salad.  You will probably want to add more mayo at this point, and please do so.

Add more salt and pepper to taste.

Kalua Pig and Mac Salad.  Did not find each other on

Serve with the following recommended pairings:
Kettle Chips, preferably Salt & Pepper flavor, as a vehicle to dip into the mac salad
Budweiser or Heineken, just like home
Kalua Pig (recipe forthcoming)
Any form of BBQed meat with rice

*The high school one attends on Oahu is of utmost importance in determining how to most accurately pass judgment on an individual based on sweeping generalizations associated with their respective high school.  These stereotypes include but are not limited to: socio-economic standing, race, intelligence, and the ability to dominate physically; ie, "Barack Obama attended Punahou High School, therefore he thinks he's better than everybody."