May 22, 2017

Reef Fish in Hawaii

Scaled and Gutted
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Naturally, Hawaii's islands are surrounded by reefs filled with 435 species of fish. The small brightly colored fish range from 3 inches to 2 feet. Oddly enough, if you go to the grocery store here on Moloka'i you will only find a handful of types of fish, like ahi tuna, mahi-mahi, onaga, ehu, opakapaka, and akule. So when a neighbor gifts you with fresh reef fish, it's a rare event, mostly because locals usually catch just enough fish to feed their families.

The fish on the left, or what's left of it, is Weke ‘a (yellow-stripe goatfish) and the red head is `√§weoweo (Hawaiian Bigeye). Weke ‘a are a popular food fish here in Hawaii. There are 10 species of goatfishes native to Hawaiian reefs, but no known general Hawaiian term for all goatfish. Care should be taken not to eat the head of certain species of this fish, the brain reputedly contains toxins which cause disturbed sleep, nightmares and hallucinations. The `√§weoweo, which means "glowing red", is endemic to Hawaiian waters, living under ledges and in caves, and reaches 12 inches in length. It has a delicate white flesh that is delicious.

Naturally when someone is nice enough to share their catch with you, it's important to get it cleaned for dinner as soon as possible. It's best to do this outside so the fish scales don't fly all over your kitchen. Cleaning fish is really not a pleasant thing, but if you don't do it... who will? You will need a cutting board, sharp knife, and a fish scaling tool like the one shown above. Some people just use a butter knife. You can leave the head on, but I personally don't like what I am eating starring at me, so remove the head and guts, then start the scaling process by scraping from the tail to where the head used to be. Once all of the scales are removed, rinse the fish in cold water and refrigerate in a container with crushed ice until you are ready to fry them. 

These small fish were highly esteemed in early Hawai‘i and were eaten broiled, cooked in ti leaves, raw or salted lightly for two or three days, then cooked. Personally, I like to season them lightly with salt, garlic powder, and Old Bay seasoning, then coat them with whipped egg. Finally cover the fish with corn meal and fry in a wok or deep frying pan in a canola, or peanut oil until crisp. This process is very simple and only takes about 10 to 15 minutes of cooking, which leaves you with a deliciously crispy crust. Serve with thinly sliced Japanese cucumber and slivers of sweet red pepper that have been marinated in seasoned rice vinegar and salt. This simple salad is delicious with fried or heavy food. Naturally some fresh lime slices will be needed for garnish.

May 2, 2017

Fried Chicken The Way It Should Be!

























Up-Country Crispy Fried Chicken
A lot has been written over the years about the best way to cook crispy fried chicken. To start with you want your chicken to have as much flavor as possible. That means buying 'organic' chicken, not over processed chickens that have been given a chlorine bath after the birds are killed to prevent bacterial buildup (salmonella). This process makes the chickens taste slimy. 

Ask your grocer for organic chickens. Kualapuu market usually sells them here on Moloka'i, but be prepared for the elevated price tag.

Another trick is to brine your chicken for several hours before cooking them. This step adds flavor and moisture to the chicken. Next, follow the steps below for crispy fried chicken the way it should be!

To read more about slimy chicken, read this report I wrote in 2014.

Ingredients:
2 organic chickens (3 1/2 to 4 pounds each), each chicken cut into 10 pieces
4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons garlic salt
1 tablespoon paprika
3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
Peanut oil for frying

Procedure:
To brine the chicken pieces, put them into a large bowl. Cover the chicken pieces with water by 1 inch; add 1 tablespoon of salt for every quart of water. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 2 2/3 cups flour, garlic salt, paprika, 2 1/2 teaspoons pepper and poultry seasoning. In a shallow bowl, beat eggs and water; add salt and the remaining flour and pepper. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then place in the bag, a few pieces at a time. Seal bag and shake to coat.

Pour oil to a depth of 1 1/2 inches in a deep skillet or Dutch oven; heat to 375˚F. Working in batches of 3 to 4 pieces at a time, carefully add the chicken to the skillet, turning once, until golden brown and cooked through, about 12 minutes. Drain on paper towels. (if needed keep cooked chicken in a 225˚F preheated oven to keep warm while the other chicken cooks). Serve with Flaky Golden Biscuits, Creamy Mashed Potatoes with Chicken Milk Gravy, and Sweet Memphis-Style Coleslaw. Makes 8 servings.


Flaky Golden Biscuits
These biscuits are great with fried chicken. I like to add more butter with a combination of molasses and honey, but then I'm a Southern boy.

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold, butter
1 cup whole milk, or buttermilk if you have it

Procedure:
Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl. Transfer to a food processor. Cut butter into pats and add to flour, then pulse 5 or 6 times until the mixture resembles rough crumbs. (Alternatively, cut butter into flour in the mixing bowl using a fork or a pastry cutter.) Return dough to bowl, add milk, or buttermilk, and stir with a fork until it forms a rough ball.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat it down into a rough rectangle, about an inch thick. Fold it over and gently pat it down again. Repeat. Cover the dough loosely with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425˚F.

Gently pat out the dough some more, so that the rectangle is roughly 10 inches by 6 inches. Cut dough into biscuits using a floured glass or biscuit cutter. Do not twist cutter when cutting; this crimps the edges of the biscuit and impedes its rise.

Place biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.


Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Ingredients:
3-5 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/2-1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/2-1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4-1/2 cup sour cream
1/4-1/2 cup whole milk
1/2-1 teaspoon salt

Procedure:
About 1 hour before dinner, fill a heavy 4 quart pot 2/3 full with water, add 1 teaspoon salt, the rosemary, and bring to a rolling boil (this will take 10-15 minutes). Add the potatoes. Bring the potatoes back to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Once the potatoes are boiling, they will be done in 15-20 minutes (fairly tender when pierced with a fork). Drain the potatoes, and return to the pot. Discard the rosemary, cover and return to the stove with the heat off for a few minutes so the potatoes will dry. Add garlic, white pepper, sour cream, milk, and salt, then mash with a hand masher or whip with a beater, depending on the texture you prefer (a mixer will create fine, pureed potatoes, hand-mashing will yield chunkier, denser potatoes). When mashed, cover the potatoes tightly and leave on the back burner of the stove until ready to serve (it is warm there even with the burner turned off). Makes 8-12 servings.


Chicken Milk Gravy
Ingredients:
4 tablespoons of the oil from frying the chicken,
     plus the little brown bits in the bottom of the skillet.
1/3 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
2 cups of milk
1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

Procedure:
Pour the oil from the skillet, leaving 4 tablespoons of oil and fried chicken crumbles in the skillet. Blend in the flour and cook and stir over moderately low heat for about 5 minutes or until a inch rich brown roux forms. Whisk in the milk, garlic powder, salt and pepper, then cook, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes or until thickened, smooth, and no raw starch taste lingers. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Pour the gravy into a heated gravy boat. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Note: This gravy recipe is also great over skillet fried pork chops.


Sweet Memphis-Style Coleslaw
Ingredients:
1 large head green cabbage, cored and shredded (I sometimes use Napa cabbage)
2 medium-size carrots, peeled and grated
1 red bell pepper, cored seeded and finely diced
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
2 cups prepared mayonnaise
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons celery seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Procedure:
Place shredded cabbage, carrots, red pepper and onion into a large bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, mix together all of the remaining ingredients. Pour over the vegetables and toss well to combine. Cover the coleslaw and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours for the flavors to meld. Stir again before serving. Makes about 2 1/2 quarts of coleslaw.