Thursday, July 4, 2013

"Plate Lunch".....Hawaiian Style

Aloha.  I want to go to Hawaii.  I am just throwing that out there in case one of you is going soon and would like to take me.  Just putting it out there in the atmosphere.  I used to go a lot when I was little.  My dad worked there for a short period of time too.  I was a lucky kid.  As an adult, I haven’t been since my honeymoon, almost twelve years ago.

I still dream about Hawaii even though I haven’t been for a long time.  The beach, the weather, and mostly….the food.  I love Hawaiian food.  Are you familiar?  Hawaii has lots of seafood, lots of Spam, lots of Asian influences, Portuguese sausage (at McDonald’s for breakfast!) and a little something called a “plate lunch”.

A “plate lunch” is a standard in Hawaii.  It is essentially, a meat, which is your main, two scoops of white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad.  Probably not the best thing for you, but so crazy good.  The meat, or seafood, is always delicious and the macaroni salad is different than a typical mainland macaroni salad.  It is a little bit sweeter, I would say.

Hawaiian restaurants that serve this kind of deliciousness have popped up all over the mainland.  When I lived in California, I had several to choose from.  I don’t have as many choices here in Nevada, but no big deal…I’ll make my own.

For my plate lunch, I am going to show you how to make Kalua pork, my macaroni salad and for dessert, a yummy Pina Colada Cupcake!  First, let me explain Kalua pork if you are unfamiliar.  Kalua pork, also called Kalua pig is named after a traditional cooking method, or “Kalua”.  It means to cook in an underground oven.  Basically, a pig is salted, stuffed with hot rocks, wrapped in banana leaves and buried in the ground.  The pig cooks underground for a long time, like six hours.  When it comes out and is unwrapped, the meat is smoky and tender.  It falls apart it is so tender.

Clearly, I won’t be digging a hole in my backyard and burying a pig.  I think my Homeowner’s Association frowns on that.  I am going to make do with my slow cooker.  I guess I could bury the slow cooker, but the electricity would be a problem.

I start with a four to five pound pork butt.  I chose a boneless version because that is what looked goof that day.  Bone in, bone out…it doesn’t matter.  Just make sure you have a nice fatty butt.  I rub the whole thing with liquid smoke and kosher salt.  You can use any salt, really.  Hawaiian sea salt would be great, but any will work.

Once the pork has been rubbed down, I set it in my slow cooker that has been lined with banana leaves.  (These actually aren’t as hard to find as you would think, and they really do add an authenticity that can’t be beat.  I found mine at an Asian grocer in the frozen section.)  I wrap the leaves around the pork to make a banana leaf package.  Then, I let the cooker go for 10 hours.

When the meat comes out, it will fall apart.  I discard the leaves, shred the meat and return it to the smoky cooking liquid.  This meat is crazy, knock your socks off, good.  It will make you want to Tahitian dance, twirl fire and maybe even surf.  And so easy!  The slow cooker does all the work!

And just in case you were wondering, the banana leaves are totally optional.  But you really should go to your local Asian grocer.  I could wander around for days.  The food is amazing.

As for my macaroni salad….it is a pretty basic recipe.  I boil macaroni noodles until they are totally done.  No al dente here.  A good Hawaiian macaroni salad has fat, fully cooked noodles.  The drained noodles get mixed with chopped celery, bell pepper, carrot and red onion.  I also stir in chopped Canadian bacon and shredded cheddar cheese.  The dressing is mayo, milk, cider vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper.  It is reminiscent of the dressing that goes on a broccoli salad.

The whole this gets mixed together and chilled.  It is perfect next to a mound of Kalua pork and white rice.  I topped my pork with a Guava Pineapple Teriyaki sauce I found at the Asian market.  Seriously, go there.  You will love it.


Doesn’t this make you want to put on a grass skirt?

Finally, the cupcakes.  Have some of you been waiting for this only?  For my Pina Colada cupcakes, I use a white box cake mix.  I add three whole eggs as opposed to egg whites only, melted butter instead of oil and pineapple juice instead of water.  I also throw in a couple of teaspoons of rum extract.

I bake the cupcakes according to package directions and let them cool.  As for my frosting….I use butter, powdered sugar, milk or heavy cream and pineapple jam.  I look for a really stiff pineapple jam.  Play with the jars in the store.  Throw them around, tip them over, see what looks stiff and thick.  I’m kidding of course.  You will get thrown out.

I blend the softened butter with the pineapple jam and powdered sugar in my standing mixer.  How much milk you add depends on how stiff your jam is.  I needed about a quarter cup.

This gets spread over the cupcakes, and then for the crowning glory, I dip each frosted cupcake in sweetened flake coconut.  Yum!  So tropical and so yummy! 


Who wouldn’t want this on a hot summer night?  Or any other night?

If you would like to take me to Hawaii, let me know soon.  I will have to practice my hula.  If not, make these recipes and we can all pretend.


Kalua Pork

4 to 5 pound boneless pork butt (or blade roast)

½ cup liquid smoke

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Banana leaves

Line slow cooker with defrosted banana leaves.

Rub pork evenly with liquid smoke and salt.  Place in slow cooker on top of banana leaves.  Fold leaves over the top of pork, forming a “package”.

Cook on low for 10 hours.  Remove meat from cooker, shred and return to pot and cooking juices.

Serves  6 to 8

Court’s Hawaiian Macaroni Salad

1 pound elbow macaroni, boiled till done and cooled

½ cup carrots, chopped

½ cup celery, chopped

½ cup bell pepper, chopped

1/3 cup red onion, chopped

½ cup Canadian bacon, chopped

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup mayonnaise

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup milk

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix elbow macaroni, carrots, celery, bell pepper, red onion, Canadian bacon and shredded cheese together in a large bowl.

Is a small mixing bowl, whisk together mayo, vinegar, milk, sugar, salt and pepper.  Pour half over macaroni salad.  Mix well.  Wait 10 minutes to pour over remaining dressing.  Mix well and chill.

Serves 12


Pina Colada Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix

3 eggs

1 stick butter, melted

1 ¼ cup pineapple juice

2 teaspoons rum extract


1 stick butter

½ cup pineapple jam

3 cups powdered sugar

¼ cup heavy cream or milk

1 cup sweetened flake coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat together (with a hand mixer) cake mix, eggs, butter, juice and rum extract for about two minutes.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full.  Bake according to package directions.  Let cupcakes cool for at least 2 hours.

For frosting:

With a hand mixer, beat together softened butter and pineapple jam.  Once that is blended, slowly blend in powdered sugar and cream/milk.  Beat until desired consistency is reached.

Frost cupcakes evenly.  Place coconut in a shallow dish.  Dip each frosted cupcake into coconut.

Makes 22-24 cupcakes

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