Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hau'oli Makahiki Hou! - Appetizers For a Very Tiki New Year

Does the recent, refound popularity of Tiki mean we Americans are looking for a return to the exotic drinks, quirky ceramic mugs and laid back culture of the alluring, romantic Pacific Islands? Are we Pittsburghers looking for an escape to the gentle sway of both palm trees and the hips of grass-skirted maidens, to  the colorful parrot-shirted, straw-hatted, bronzed godlike men who symbolize the Tiki lifestyle? Could we be seeking tiki huts and bamboo torches to light the way to a hidden get-away far from cold, harsh winds, sleet and snow? Maybe we ARE looking for paradise. In a tiki mug. We're looking for our very own personal tropical escape....if only in our minds and for just a moment. 

Tiki underground whispers have been growing in volume over the last couple of years as new Tiki bars have popped up across the country and old ones have found new appreciation.
Listen closely, the silence might reveal the sound of distant tribal drums, lapping waves and raucous bird calls from softly swaying coconut palms above as the culture known as Tiki quietly reemerges from it's golden heydays of the 40's and 50's. And it's happening here. In Pittsburgh. 

Which brings me to two Tiki-inspired recipes I've whipped up lately for a few little Tiki get-togethers I've been lucky enough to be a part of. Kona Kahiki Tiki Ribs and Coconut Lime Chicken Sticks with a Pineapple Coconut Lime Dipping Sauce. The ribs were a creation using Kona coffee, lime zest, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and toasted almonds for a group of fellow tikiphiles one recent evening. 

The chicken was created for a weekend Mele Kalikimaka Tiki Christmas party held by another fellow tiki fan. Actually, the chicken was originally created for last summer's Jimmy Buffet tailgate and was such a hit we had to do it all over again. Why not serve this hit for New Year's, too?!

Unfortunately, the pics aren't very good because time was of the essence in getting the goodies to the parties. The photos were snapped with a cellphone in less than idealistic conditions. Who cares?! The food was fresh, hot and GOOD! Photos were a minor player. Suffice it to say, the food did stay around long enough to snap many pics anyway. What would you prefer, pretty pics or food for friends that flies off the table? Yeah, that's what I thought.

The cocktails at the recent events? Some of the best of the BEST Tiki drinks created by none other than Lucky the Painproof Man, Greta the Grass Skirt Goddess, Max Stein (no knickname that I'm privy to), Chip Homer, Adambomb, Dr. Bamboo, Mike Basista (food photographer extraordinaire - and NO, he isn't responsible for the photos here - these are mine) and many, many more Tiki talents from around the 'Burgh.

Lucky the Painproof Man

The Coconaut - by Lucky

Greta and flaming Tiki drinks!

Just in case you want to ring in the New Year with some new, different and delicious appetizers, here are the recipes. Aloha...and mahalo, friends! Oh...and Hau'oli Makahiki Hou!

Kona Kahiki Tiki Ribs

Kona Kahiki Tiki Ribs

  • 1/4 cup ground Kona coffee (I get mine at Nicholas Coffee in Market Square) - a much less expensive Hawaiian variety called Cantui Red is FABULOUS!
  • 1/4 cup toasted almonds, finely ground in the food processor - caution, don't let it go too long or you'll have almond butter!
  • 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot 
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

  • 1 rack babyback pork ribs, silverskin removed (check online for a method to perform this maneuver...Google's easy, but complicated to describe)

In a small bowl, mix all rub ingredients well - I mash mine together with a fork. 

Massage 1/2 of the rub into one side of the ribs, the other half on the other side of the ribs. Do this at least 4 hours before or overnight. Wrap them well in plastic wrap.

The next day, bring them to room temp and set the oven to 325 degrees. 

Take the plastic wrap off the ribs, rewrap them in heavy duty aluminum foil and seal well. Put the foil-wrapped ribs into a large roasting pan or rimmed cookie sheet that will comfortably hold the ribs. 

Cook for 3 hours or until tender, just shy of falling off the bone. Remove from oven; open the foil, exposing the ribs completely.

Raise the oven temp to 400 degrees, put the ribs back in and let 'er rip for half an hour. 

NOTE: I made 3 racks of babyback and they disappeared in a flash!

NOTE 2: Costco has absolutely GORGEOUS babybacks - SO meaty - packed 3 racks to a pack. These are the meatiest, tenderest, most wonderful babybacks I've ever had. And reasonably priced!

Coconut Lime Chicken Sticks 
with Pineapple Coconut Lime Dipping Sauce

  • 3 chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise into long, narrow sticks

  • 1/2 cup panko, breadcrumbs - I get gluten free ones at Soergels to make this GF
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced, reserve the juice
  • 1 cup coconut flakes, toasted in a 300 degree oven until golden - watch closely so it doesn't burn - cool
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 1/3 cup coconut cream, Yes, the thick, gloppy stuff you use to make Pina Coladas - GREAT for making a marinade that STICKS!
  • 1/2 of the juice you reserved above
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce, Busha Browne's Pukka Sauce is what I use - get it at Reyna's in the Strip District...AMAZING stuff and perfect for this recipe!
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic

  • coconut oil, you'll need both the solid oil AND a coconut oil spray - my fave spray is from Trader Joe's and fave solid is from Costco

Mix up the breading and set aside - panko through Kosher salt.

Mix the marinade - coconut cream through granulated garlic. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade.  In a large bowl or large plastic zip top bag, toss the remaining marinade and chicken strips together and refrigerate for 4 hours or even overnight.

When ready to bake, turn the oven to 450 degrees. Put the breading mixture into a large bowl and a toss few strips at a time in the dredge, coating well. Set aside onto a sheet of plastic wrap or foil. 

Once the chicken is all coated, put a lump - maybe 2 T. - of coconut oil onto a large baking sheet WITH A RIM(!!!!) or 2. Put them into the oven just to melt the oil. Then lay the chicken sticks onto the oiled RIMMED baking sheets leaving room between for browning. Spray the tops with coconut oil spray to ensure browning and crisping. 

Bake for 20 minutes on one side, turn each to the other side and continue baking until crisp and browned...maybe another 10 minutes - watch carefully. Remove from oven.

Sauce: At some point during marinating or baking, make the sauce. Mix together the reserved marinade (that you DID NOT marinate the chicken in!), 1 T. white vinegar, the juice of the other lime still remaining from above, 1 small can of crushed pineapple (drained WELL...almost to dry), 1 t. granulated garlic and 1 t. salt. Taste and adjust seasonings. This is a perfect balance to the chicken.

I love to serve the sauce in a hollowed out half pineapple shell with the fresh pineapple chunks alongside and the top as a pretty platter garnish!
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