Gotta' Be Prime Rib for Christmas

A thick, juicy slab of medium-rare prime rib

The classic American Thanksgiving Turkey feast is undeniably fantastic. The question is, how soon do you want an encore? If you’re asking me, after about two weeks of re-reinventing turkey leftovers, I’ve had enough until, perhaps, Easter. With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to move on to the next level: Prime Rib!

Of course, “prime” is a misnomer if you’re cooking a standing rib eye roast at home, as most cuts sold at the local supermarkets and big boxers are graded as “Choice”. O.K, fine then. Even though it’s “Choice Rib”, we’re still calling it “Prime Rib”. It just sounds better. Ha!

The following recipe and cooking method is a finely-honed hybrid of one I got from The Plaza Club (courtesy of mom), and also reading recipe after recipe, and watching several done on TV cooking shows. This method works like a charm, as I’ve done this 5 times already, never failing to get a perfect medium-rare finish, with a delicious, flavor-packed crust, and overall quite honestly, one that EVERYONE at the dinner table always raves about.

The seasonings are simply Hawaiian Salt, fresh cracked pepper, garlic and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

So let’s get our roast on!

Where’s the beef? Here it is…

This is a 9.67 lb bone-in choice grade rib eye roast, which went for $6.99/lb. on sale. Sliced properly, this was more than enough for our 10-person Christmas party. Notice the fat layer cap on top has already been pre-trimmed by the butcher. Most rib eye roasts in the market nowadays come that way. Also notice the marbeling and deeper layers of fat within, which are sure to provide tons of flavor and moisture inside.

Notice it’s on a roasting rack, which sits nicely within a roasting pan. You don’t need the rack, as you can sit it on its own bones, but I find the rack keeps it nicely away from its own drippings, making it easier and less messy (of drippings) afterwards to remove.

Before you’re ready to cook it, remove it from the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature for at least a half hour. You don’t want to start the rib roast from too cold a temperature, or the inside will remain raw and the doneness will be uneven.

Place it in the roasting pan (with rack if you have one).

Now let’s season it. Begin by taking whole, peeled garlic gloves and slicing them into manageable slivers (see following photo), then use the point of a sharp knife and poke a slit about 3/4″ deep (not too deep) into sections of the rib roast and insert the a garlic sliver (or two) into into each hole. Do it one at a time as you insert the garlic, or you might lose where all the other slits are. Start from the underside (bone side)…

… and work your way across in evenly-spaced rows, making your way to the top-side (fat side)…

After you’ve evenly “plugged” the entire rib roast with garlic, rub it lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This will help the salt and pepper adhere to it and infuse with the meat. If you don’t have that, regular cooking oil should be fine. I wouldn’t use butter, as butter burns faster, and may result in a burnt crust.

Now generously coat the rib roast with Hawaiian Salt and fresh cracked pepper. Not too heavy on the salt; use a sprinkling technique. That should be perfect. You can go as light or heavy with the cracked pepper as you want. I think the more pepper the better. Here you can see how I do mine…

That is one HAPPY rib roast!

Recap: garlic placed in sliced “pukas”, EVOO rub, Hawaiian Salt and fresh cracked pepper. That’s it.

Time to hit the heat.

By far the most important tool you should have when cooking a prime rib is a meat thermometer. It takes all the guess work out of how long and/or hot to cook it. With that, I use a simple, yet very accurate analog Cooper meat thermometer, with detailed reading all the way from 0 to 220ºF.

Here, I’ve stuck the oven-safe thermometer into the very center of the rib roast, careful to get the probe end right in the middle of the meat WITHOUT touching the bone…

Don’t let it touch the bone, as the bone carries a higher heat and will give you a false reading. Notice the internal temperature reading dropped to about 40ºF after it was inserted, below the 80º room temperature reading it was at.

So what internal temperature are we shooting for to get a perfect medium-rare? As soon as it hits 120ºF remove it. You can even as low as 110ºF if you like it “bloody” rare on the very inside. With that 120ºF goal, notice that I placed that temperature at the “12 o’clock” position, which makes it that much easier to check through the oven window.

O.K., the rib roast is all seasoned up and the thermometer placed and ready to sizzle. Great. Let it sit there. Now fire-up your oven on BAKE or ROAST (not broil) to the hottest it will get, which for most home ovens is about 500ºF. What this high temperature will do is sear the outside and create a crust that will seal the juices within the meat. Sounds good, right? Once the oven is preheated to temperature, place the rib roast in there…

Now close the oven door and, if you can help it, DON’T open the door! Roast at 500ºF for 30 minutes, then reduce the tempurature to 325ºF. That’s it. It will take about 1-1/2 hours total cooking time for most rib roasts to reach that magical 120ºF internal temperature. Plus or minus of course, depending on your even, the size of the roast and other slight variables. That’s why the meat thermometer is such an invaluable tool in cooking perfect “Prime” Rib. It takes all the guesswork out. Just watch for 120ºF and yank it.

This really is an easy job, as the oven does most of the work, but I still would recommend keeping an eye on it. Especially if you’re not familiar with your oven. If you notice the outside is starts to look like it’s burnt, like getting blackened scorched areas, simply cover it with tin foil, wrapped around the thermometer so you can still see that.

Well, time’s up, the thermometer hit 120ºF, time to turn off the oven and remove it!..

Looks great. Now don’t go cutting into just yet! Patience my friend. You need to let it stand for about a half-hour to rest. Cover it with tin foil as it rests on the countertop (in room temperature conditions). This will retain the heat. During this resting period, not only will the residual heat continue to cook it, but it will also allow the juices to redistribute within the meat fibers, so you lose less of that as you cut into it. You DO want succulent, tender and JUICY prime rib, right? This resting period will almost guarantee that! By the time it fully rested, the temperature reading went up about 7ºF, finishing out just under 130ºF when the thermometer was pulled out.

Now get that HUGE cutting board out, and your best meat-cutting knife. Or, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND USING AN ELECTRIC KNIFE…

This wonder-gadget is very affordable (you can get a basic one from those Wal guys for about $10). The advantage of an electric knife is that its reciprocating cutting action requires less pressure on the meat, resulting in less “juice” loss. This is also an invaluable tool for carving, yes, turkey! Of course, be careful and cut THE MEAT, not YOUR meat (as in fingers). lol

Before you cut slices for serving, first remove the rib bones in one fell swoop. Start from one end of the bones, then just saw away, following the bone as a guide. This makes it SO MUCH EASIER to cut the main part into serving size slices. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of this step. Next time! But folks, the meat around them bones is arguably the best part. But sorry, the chef gets that! Ha ha!

Time to serve! Using your wonderful electric knife, slice away to each person’s desire…

I cannot even describe how absolutely ONO this tastes!

What’s beautiful about cooking it medium-rare like this, is that there’s actually more medium sections towards the ends, as this cut shown in the photo just above was taken nearer to there, resulting in more medium-medium-rare doneness. There were certainly a few folks who wanted medium, if not well done, so they got the end slices. Us “bloody and still moo’ing” folks opted for the rarest center cuts. Like “buttah”!

So what do you serve with prime rib?

Of course, Au Jus. I make mine “semi-home-made”, using half packaged and half from scratch using the drippings from the pan. What I do is make a pot of the packaged (just add water) stuff on the side. Then with the drippings in the pan, drain the fat (oil), then add about a cup of red wine to deglaze, scraping off the fond “yum yums” from the pan and stir, letting the wine reduce just a bit. Then add about 2 cups of beef broth and about a pat of butter and salt to taste. Stir until that reduces just a bit, skimming off any more fat (this takes a little effort) using a spoon. Then combine this pan-made au jus to the packaged one simmering on the stove. Oh my God! Just pour this on mashed potatoes or rice and it’d be good! lol

Pour Au Jus in a gravy boat for service. Also serve with (bottled) Horseradish.

Side dishes we like are roasted potatoes (which can be done in the same pan with the prime rib), mashed potatoes, baked potato and/or of course, rice. Veggies can be anything from various preparations of broccoli, asparagus or mixed green salad. The simpler the better. Make the star the star: the Prime Rib.

Here’s a photo of a past Easter Sunday Prime Rib feast I prepared, so you can see the entire spread, as it should be shown…

In closing, I’ll say the Prime Rib is a sure guest-pleaser, and easy to do RIGHT as long as you have a meat thermometer, preferably an electric carving knife, and stick with basic seasonings. Even just Kosher salt and pepper would work. But garlic helps! Never mind any other herbs or getting fancy. No need. Let the beef speak. Prime Rib, next to a great steak is the ultimate speaker of all that is BEEF!

So what holiday do we have next? New Year’s Day! And you know what happens then! The Sugar Bowl! Go Warriors! And there’s only one thing that goes with that.. SASHIMI! and POKE! That will be my next post.

Tasty Island’s Fish ‘N Chips Project: Part II

Hot on the heels (or should we say fins?) of the first installment of this quest for making perfect Fish ‘N Chips, here’s the second attempt, this time using Pancake mix.

We had a huge Costco-sized 10 lb. bag of Krusteaz buttermilk pancake mix sitting in the pantry…

So I thought “What the heck? Let’s try it!” Being in experimentation mode, I also picked up this fish called Izumidai, a.k.a. Tilapia…

Izumidai (Tilapia) Block for Sashimi (previously frozen), $5.99/lbs.

These two beautful slabs of white meat fish, being just under a half-pound costed only $2.10. Yasui desu yo!

The batter recipe is simply equal parts pancake mix to equal parts water, which has a thinner viscosity than the intended pancake recipe. It’s already preseasoned with salt, and of course the added richness of Buttermilk, so nothing else is needed.

Here it is.

Easy Buttermilk Pancake Battered Fish ‘N Chips
• 1/2 lb. white meat fish fillets, cut into 2″x6″ strips
• 1/2 cup Buttermilk Pancake mix
• 1/2 cup water
1st base (the dry dredge):
• 1 cup Buttermilk Pancake mix
2nd base:
• 3 cups canola oil
3rd base:
• Chips (I used frozen Ore-Ida seasoned fries (with skin). Cook enough for the amount of people you’re serving.
Home Run:
• Cocktail Sauce (the stuff used for Shrimp Cocktail)
• Tartar Sauce
• Fresh Lemon Wedges
• Garnish (optional, but highly recommended!) such as chopped fresh Green Onion, Chives, or Parsley

In a bowl, combine equal parts pancake mix with water and whisk until smooth . In another bowl, first dredge the fish strips into the dry pancake mix (this helps the wet batter bind, and also adds body), then dip in wet batter mix…

Here you can see the thinned-down viscosity of the pancake-based batter mix. It sort of lumped there in this shot, but I shook it off. Immediately drop the evenly coated fish in properly heated deep frying oil and cook, turning it ocasionally to reach an even golden-brown and delicious finish (“GBD”). That takes approximately 3 minutes.

Serve with chips (fries), condiments and garnish.

Here’s a cross-cut view of the pancake battered fish after it’s cooked…

Witness how moist and tender this fully cooked white-fleshed Izumidai is.

So how is this pancake batter crust for Fish ‘N Chips? Simply said, excellent! It’s more of a flaky texture, and a bit less glutenous than the beer batter version. But it’s seasoned perfectly out of the bag, and being converted into a different element than breakfast pancakes – namely being deep-fried – it takes on a whole new level of flavor. I’d liken it to Andagi in flavor, sans the sweetness and chew that Andagi has.

And that Izumidai (Tilapia) fish is fantastic! Way better than Pollock. Even though this was also previously frozen, it had much character to its flavor and texture. It tasted like fish, without being “fishy”, know what I mean? Kinda’ like Mahimahi. As long as it wasn’t caught in the Ala Wai canal, it’s A-O.K. with me. lol

Here’s a few photo-to-photo comparisons of the pancake batter Fish ‘N Chips and the beer batter Fish ‘N Chips…

The Tasty Island’s Pancake Batter Fish ‘N Chips: Project II

The Tasty Island’s Beer Batter Fish ‘N Chips: Project I

You can see that the beer batter has a smoother, sealed crust, while the pancake batter has more texture to it.

The Tasty Island’s Pancake Batter Fish ‘N Chips: Project II

The Tasty Island’s Beer Batter Fish ‘N Chips: Project I

The name also has to sound alluring. “Buttermilk Batter Fish ‘N Chip” sounds good to me! Almost better than “Beer Batter Fish ‘N Chips”. Almost.

Well this project isn’t done yet. While both so far are excellent, tried-and-true recipes (as you see it), there’s still more batter to beat and bigger fish to fry!

And to everyone on this Christmas eve… MELE KALIKAMAKI!

Plastic Food Displays

I traveled to Japan many times throughout childhood, and we dined at so many awesome restaurants within the Ginza area of Tokyo. This molded what would become an absolute love of Japanese cuisine.

One of the most fascinating and alluring things I remember about most of the Japanese restaurants were all those amazing plastic (artificial) food displays in glass showcases fronting the establishments. It’s one thing to read the menu, but to physically SEE it almost immediately sells it. Genius!

Bringing this custom here, upon walkin past a Japanese ramen shop in Waikiki last night, I snapped these shots of their plastic food display in front…

Yes, these are all plastic displays of the real deal. Looks pretty real to me! From that chashumen, to the peas on that fried rice, to the foam “head” topping that Kirin beer, good gracious, I want a bite and a sip! Hold the polystyrene, please. lol

When my dad was running Hawaii’s papaya industry and doing marketing in Japan, he had to get a couple of those plastic displays that depicted a papaya in really ono-looking service form. It costed a hefty $500 for a custom-made plastic papaya with a scoop of of plastic ice cream in it. And another 5 “Bens” for a simple plastic papaya with a plastic lemon wedge in it.

Remembering Hula Lunch Wagon

A rendition of what Hula Lunch Wagon would have looked like back in 1981

In the early 80’s, my sister Keanu owned and operated Hula Lunch Wagon, which was primarily situated on Elliot Street where Hawaiian Airlines cargo is located.

The menu sounds fantastic, but what’s most interesting about it were the market prices in that decade.

She recently found her original menu, and as you’ll see in the following, if this were the going rate today, what a bargain!
Circa 1981…

Elliot street, next to Hawaiian Air Cargo
Honolulu International Airport

Beef Stew – $2.00
Chicken Long Rice – $1.75
Chili and Franks – $1.75
Mix Plate – $2.75
Hamburger Steak – $2.00
Shoyu Chicken – $2.00
Sweet-Sour Spare Ribs – $2.00
Hawaiian Plate (Includes Rice or Poi, Lomi Salmon, Kalua Pig, Laulau, choice of Tripe or Beef Stew or Chicken Long Rice) – $2.75
Portuguese Bean Soup – $2.00
Fried Chicken – $2.00
Kalbi – $2.50
Pork Adobo – $2.50
Beef Curry – $2.00
Mahimahi – $2.75
Beef Teriyaki – $2.50
Roast Pork – $2.25
Roast Beef – $2.50
****All plate lunches include 2 scoops rice, extra scoop (no charge) and mac salad****

Dressing: Tropical, Blue Cheese or Italian

Hamburger – .65
**Deluxe – .80
Cheeseburger – .80
**Deluxe – .95
(Includes Lettuce, Tomatoes and Onions)
Devil Egg – .75
Tuna – .75
Hotdog – .75
Chili Dog – $1.00

Coca Cola, Rootbeer, Punch, Lemon-Lime or Orange
Small – .35
Medium – .45
Large – .60

JUICES – .50
Passion Orange
Guava Nectar

CHIPS – .35

Are you kidding me? Only $2.75 for that fully-loaded Hawaiian plate?!!! That’s crazy! Well, by today’s standards anyway. And you cigarette smokers only WISH they were still just .75/pack!

While that entire menu has outrageously-cheap (by today’s standards) prices, it’s also the perfect model of what defines a true “local style” lunch wagon.

I’m very proud of my sister for trying out this business. It was really hard work and profits were slim, so she closed shop after about 2 years in business, but it gave her the tools and knowledge of the food and beverage business. Not to mention a whole lotta’ ono grinds to enjoy on the ride.

This was Hula Lunch Wagon’s logo…

The name was cool too. I like it. “Hula Lunch Wagon”. Very cool. Even cooler were those prices. $2.00 plate lunches. Ubelievable!

Forget Sizzlin', These Steaks are Blazin'!

Tender slices of beef sirloin, flame-grilled to perfection

Most of us Oahu folks are already familiar with those “$6 steak plate” operations popping up all over the island. You’ll often find them at vendor carts or parking lot grill-outs fronting the neighborhood supermarkets.

Well, the “steaks” have now been raised up a notch in the form of what we have here as Blazin’ Steaks restaurant. Yes, a restaurant. Or should we call it a “Steakhouse”?

Blazin’ Steaks is located on the mauka side of N. King st., across the Kalihi post office, next to the new Honolulu Ford dealership. It’s in what was originally a Pizza Hut restaurant (obvious by the architecture), then superceded by several Filipino restaurants, among other tenants.

Blazin’ Steaks, located at 1314 N. King St., across the Kalihi post office

But don’t walk in expecting to compare them to the likes of Hy’s, Ruths Chris or Morton’s. You won’t find “high maka maka” white table cloths or tableside Caesar salad preparations here. At its core, this is really a take-out operation that just happens to have a nicely appointed dining room with cool air conditioning to sit down and enjoy your meal.

There’s also no wait staff. You simply walk in, order at the front counter, wait for your food, then grab a seat and enjoy, or take it to go.

Here’s the front counter…

The kitchen is in back and out of sight.

The decor is elegantly simple and contemporary, very clean, and even includes a large flat screen TV…

Blazin’ Steaks’ dining room

I’m guessin’ Richard put that TV in not only to entertain his guests, but also so he doesn’t have to call in sick on the day of the Sugarbowl and Superbowl. Ha ha! busted! I tell you, das’ one smart buggah! lol

The menu is simple and streamlined, with everything on it (excluding the 10 oz. steak) running an easy-to-breath (and still have mula for Christmas shopping) $6 bucks!…

Blazin’ Steaks menu board

The steaks are simply seasoned with salt and pepper and flame-grilled to order, which you’re asked how you want it done: rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, or well done. There’s also grilled chicken with a variety of sauces to choose, and catch-of-the-day grilled fish. Everything grilled. Love that! It doesn’t mention a combo’ plate, but you can order that for just a bit more, as you’ll see.

My friend and coworker diner “E” took us here not only to try for the first time, but also as a Christmas present “treat”. Big mahalo braddah “E”!

Time to hit it. I ordered the standard $6 steak plate, which includes 2 scoops rice, green salad and medium drink. Medium-rare steak and ranch dessing on the salad…

8 oz. steak plate (medium-rare) with rice and green salad (Ranch dressing) with drink, $6.00.

Diner “A” ordered also ordered the $6 plate, his opting for medium-well doneness (you’re killing it!) and Thousand Island dressing…

8 oz. steak plate (medium-well) with rice and green salad (Thousand Islands dressing) with drink, $6.00.

Diner “E” ordered a steak and chicken combo plate, which costed just a $1 more…

Steak (medium-rare) and Chicken (Korean BBQ) combo plate with rice and green salad (Italian dressing) with drink, $7.00.

Regardless of chicken, swoon over and witness the steak.. the steak! Back to it, he ordered his chicken in the style of Korean BBQ, which involves the application of a sweetened shoyu and sesame-flavored sauce. He commented that the chicken was tender and moist with nice char-grill markings adding punch, and overall, “oishii desu”! Hoo ha! With the combo, you get half the quantity of each, meaning 4 oz. of steak and half the amount of a regular chicken plate.

All our plates were made to order, which took all about a leisurely 8 or so minutes for pick-up, so when they arrived at the front counter, they were piping hot. What’s helpful not only to the cooks in back, but also to the patron, is that they clearly mark the top of each clamshell plate what is what…

As you see, the top left says the item: (left to right) mr=medium-rare, kc=Korean chicken, mix; 8 oz. steak; 8 oz. steak. And the top right indicates the dressing: (left to right) Italian, Ranch & Thousand Islands. So surely our order can’t be messed up. And it wasn’t.

Also take note of the black color of the plate, providing that much more elegance and presentation value…

In fact, all three of us savored every tender slice of the steak (and diner “E” the chicken). The beef sirloin cut is simply seasoned with just salt and pepper. That’s all we could taste, and it’s perfect that way. Not like Teriyaki meat or Cajun this or that, but STEAK in all its beefy, meaty glory. And they slice it thin, which not only makes it look like more, but makes it easier to chew.

In the top photo macro shot of my plate, you can see how perfectly it was cooked to medium-rare, with a char on the outside, and slightly pink inside. And so, so tender. Just perfect.

And they got all our requested levels of steak doneness correct. High-five to the grill mastah’!

The only thing we noticed was that the rice had too much water, making it soggy. But no biggy. At least it was piping hot, like they just finished cooking it. Perhaps that’s why. It didn’t have time to steam out.

The salad is simply shreds of Iceberg lettuce, with your choice Ranch, Italian or Thousand Islands. While that alone isn’t going to win any awards, it does its job well: to compliment and complete the meal.

Keeping with the streamlined, cost-cutting approach, there’s only one condiment station at a table in front. That includes A-1 steak sauce (my favorite!), Korean BBQ sauce, Ketchup, Thai Sweet & Sour sauce, Worcestershire sauce, shoyu, tobasco, salt & pepper. Eh brah, where da’ chili pepper water? Nah, joke. Da’ A-1 nuff!

I met Richard, the owner and man at the helm. Nice guy. He said he’ll be opening another location in Windward City Shopping Center and also in Kapolei. Smart buggah. He said Blazin’ Steaks is a franchise, so if you see another “Blazin’ Steaks” other than the locations mentioned above, those have different owners.

When we arrived, there were only folks ordering plates to take out, but there were also TONS of orders coming in by phone, as was evident while we waited for our order. Within a few minutes at least 20 plates stacked in plastic bags were brought out atop the counter awaiting their hungry owners to pick them up. By the time we left around noon, the place began to fill up.

At a time when plate lunches are breaking the magic $5 price point, it’s refreshing to know for just a buck more you can have this carnivore’s dream plate. As you chow away at every tender morsel, the bargain-basement price, along with the rather nicely-appointed restaurant interior makes you wonder how you’d ever again want to fork-over easily 3 to 10 times the price at some “fancy-shmancy” joint for essentially the same thing.

$6 steak plates is great, further sweetening the deal with a nice, clean place to sit down with family and friends to enjoy it. By all means stop by Blazin’ Steaks in Kalihi, where it’s not just sizzlin’, but totally blazin’ and highly recommended!!!

Blazin’ Steaks
1314 N. King St.
(next to Honolulu Ford)
Phone orders welcome

More on this: Staking out some great steaks (Honolulu Star Bulletin)

*Date and time of visit: 12.27.07 @ 11:30am.

The Tasty Island Rating:

(3) Very Good. Considerable of another visit or purchase. (Supah’ Ono!)

Tasty Island's Fish 'N Chips Project

Tasty Island’s Beer Battered Pollock Fish ‘N Chips with tartar and cocktail sauce.
Prepared, photographed and (quickly) consumed 12.15.07.
Hawaiian Flag in background.

Ever since childhood, I was always crazy for Fish ‘N Chips. Having English heritage (my grandmother was 1/2 English, 1/2 Hawaiian), I’m not surprised. While this dish isn’t exactly common in the islands as it should be (we ARE surrounded by the ocean!), there are some great places if you look for it.

One of the of the best I’ve had is Alexander’s in Kihei, Maui (now under new ownership), where they use a “secret” seasoned tempura-based batter. It’s fantastic. What’s also unique is that they offer 4 of the most popular game fish caught in Hawaiian waters for the customer to choose from: Ahi, Mahimahi, Ono or Marlin. Also Shrimp and clams. Nice.

I’m bent on perfecting the art and science of preparing this seemingly simple, yet can-be-complex dish. My quest for perfect Fish ‘N Chips starts here.

I’ve searched the web trying to find the definitive classic English batter recipe, only to find there are more variables than constants from one to the other. Go see for yourself. Some use beer, some use milk. For lightness, some use peaked egg whites, while others use baking powder. Some pre-dredge in dry flour, some don’t. Others use varying types of flours and even cornmeal. But I can’t find a common denominator!

Preparations I disagree with are those that use bread crumbs or panko. That to me is more like a fish cutlet. That texture just changes the whole thing.

There are premixed boxed Fish ‘N Chips batter mixes out there that are pretty good, such as one by McCormick.

But I want to master this from scratch (less the chips), and being a simple kinda’ guy, I went with a simple beer batter recipe found online and modified it just slightly to put my signature on it… if that’s even possible. I substituted rice (Mochiko) flour for the first dredge, adjusted the salt and beer quanties and a put out a full line-up of condiments, which is how I learned to eat it at Alexander’s.

Following is my first, very succesful attempt at Fish ‘N Chips, beer batter style. Enjoy!

with Simple Beer Batter

Serves 2-4 people

Batter up:
1-2 lbs. fish fillets (white flesh such as Pollock, Cod, Mahimahi & Ono), cut into strips
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 medium or large egg (white and yolk)
1-1/2 cups beer (whatever you’ve got, just make sure it has carbonation, as you need those bubbles for the batter to be light)

1st base:
1/2 cup rice (Mochiko) flour for first dredge (use APF, if rice flour not available)

2nd base:
3 cups canola oil

3rd base:
Chips (I used frozen Ore-Ida seasoned fries (with skin). Cook enough for the amount of people you’re serving.

Home Run:
Cocktail Sauce (the stuff used for Shrimp Cocktail)
Tartar Sauce
Fresh Lemon Wedges
Garnish (optional) such as chopped fresh Green Onion, Chives, or Parsley

If you prefer, substitute the lemon wedges with Malt Vinegar. Another English tradition. Or heck, use both!

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg with beer (the wet stuff). Add all other dry batter ingredients into another bowl, then slowly add egg and beer liquid mixture and whisk until fully combined into a consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Like a thin milk shake consistency. Let that sit in bowl at room temperature for 15 minutes to set.

Set up your fry station:
Place additional rice flour (1st base) in a shallow bowl or plate. Have batter mixture next to that. Heat cooking oil in pot on stove to 350º F. (about medium heat). If you have a deep fryer, great. I don’t, so the pot of oil works.

Fry it:
First fry the chips (fries) according to directions on package. Remove to paper towel to soak excess oil.

Now, one by one, dredge each fish piece in dry rice flour and shake off excess…

Then dip fish in batter mixture to evenly and thoroughly coat…

Notice the batter’s thin milk shake-like viscosity, yet the initial dredge of flour gives it good “batter body”

Then immediately place into pot of hot cooking oil…

Don’t overcrowd oil, as that will drop the temperature and make it greasy. 3 pieces max./session. Turn with tongs and cook until it’s an even light golden brown, which happens within minutes. Remove and place on plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Serve it up. Layer a bed of fries on plate, then place 2 to 3 fish pieces over it. Serve with tartar sauce, cocktail sauce and lemon wedge, then finish with green garnishment (optional, but highly recommended).

Note that I serve not one, but two dipping sauces, which truly is the icing on the cake. The richness and pickled accent of the mayo’-based tartar sauce, along with the savory tomato and horseradish bite of the cocktail sauce each on their own compliment the deep-fried, battered fish perfectly. Another one of those culinary marriages made in heaven. A squeeze of lemon juice, a dip in one of the sauces, then sink it down with some chips and, BOOM!, perfect Fish ‘N Chips! Simplicity at its finest. So awesome.

A key to making it come out golden-brown and delicious is oil temperature management. I usually test the oil by dropping just batter in first to see where it’s at. If it sinks and doesn’t bubble, it’s not hot enough. If it immediately burns, it’s too hot. It’s gotta immediately bubble, yet have time to cook the fish inside first. And keep an eye on it. Walk away for a minute and it could go from GBD to burnt in a split. Not good. If you’ve done it right, the oil will seal the batter around the fish, creating a “capsule” that steams it inside, making it moist and tender inside, and light and crispy outside without being greasy. Oh and believe me, these were beautifully tender!…

Tender and moist inside, with a flavorful, crispy, light and golden brown crust

To be honest, Pollock is a bit too mild for me. Especially being this stuff was previously frozen, which surely robbed some of its flavor. Next time I’ll make it using FRESH Ono, Marlin or Mahimahi, which I know has more punch, and definitely rules over Pollock for the “Ultimate Fish N’ Chips”. Still, the pollock matches, is very moist and overall works quite nicely.

And those seasoned Ore-Ida fries “chips”? Forget baking ’em, this is fish n chips, baby… fry ’em! Awesome! The “chips” are just as important as the fish in this simple dish, and have to be right, and these do the dish proud. It doesn’t have to be this brand, but I’ve only had good experience with these.

You can also add a simple coleslaw as a side dish, which is what Alexander’s served with theirs. This actually makes for a more complete meal. Gotta’ have your veggies! Next time I’ll add that.

Well that looks quite fab’ I must admit, and it tasted pretty darned great! Next time I’ll do that Ono or Mahimahi. I’ll also try different seasonings in the batter. I can get into this kinda’ project.

Mmm, mmm, mm. Gotta’ love them Fish ‘N Chips. Good day, mates!

'No Reservations' SPAMs it Up in Kalihi

Dave Choo enjoys a SPAM lunch with Anthony Bourdain

Anthony “Bad Boy” Bourdain and crew were in the islands a week ago taping a Hawaii episode for his hit Travel Channel show, “No Reservations”. With that nickname inserted in quotes, I need not re-explain what’s already known about him. See the next link if you don’t.

According to a story publshed a few days ago by the Star Bulletin, his itinerary here included:
• Side Street Inn
New Uptown Fountain (SPAM files)
• Paradise Cove Luau
• Lewer’s Lounge
• Bailey’s Antiques (where he bought a $2,500 Aloha shirt!)
• Jack Thompson’s B&B (Big Island)
• Lava-Side Inn (Royal Gardens on the Big Island)

Dave Choo, editor-at-large for Hawaii Business Magazine, was one of the lucky few chosen to host a segment, which he recommended they visit Uptown Fountain in Kalihi. According to Dave, the focus of this particular segment was on Hawaii’s love of SPAM. How ironic this happens on the day I had just posted (see previous entry) a ‘SPAM Musubi Showndown’. This is a perfect follow-up!

‘No Reservations’ arrives in Kalihi, a.k.a, “God’s Country”. 12.07.07.

The show begins… roll ’em!

Dave explains the menu items to Tony

Items ordered at New Uptown Fountain included, yes, a SPAM Musubi, which Dave said Tony really enjoyed. They were also served the house special: SPAM Omelet over 2 scoops of rice, with curry poured over and topped with Kim Chee. Whoah!

Dave noted how professional and polite Tony was; actually almost “geekish” at first impression. But as soon as the camera was on, his bad boy persona came right out. He joked the entire time and even posed for pictures and signed autographs for folks. Very cool.

In Dave’s new blog, he mentions that Anthony also did the following while here:
• The north shore of Oahu for a barbecue with big wave surfers (cool!)
• Puka Dog (Kauai?)
• Ono Hawaiian Food (Oahu)

One thing they missed that really should have been covered was a segment on lunch wagons. Say from Tsukenjo’s and grind ’em at Ala Moana Beach Park.

Dave and Tony share some Hot Monkey Love

I’m really looking forward to the finished product when it airs on the Travel Channel in 2008. Aside of that Paradise Cove Luau visit, hopefully as a whole it won’t be just another “touristy” travelogue, but a real-life look at hardcore “local style” Hawaii cuisine and lifestyle, as told through the eyes and stomach of a hardcore kinda’ guy. As a fan and regular ‘No Reservations’ viewer, I’m willing to bet it will be, how can I say?… bad *beeping* @ss!

For an absolutely brilliant, fully-detailed report of Anthony Bordain’s visit to New Uptown Fountain, check out Dave’s new blog, Choo On This!!!

Photos in this entry are courtesy of Dave Choo. Mahalo!