Henri gets poked in Hawaii
Once upon a time, long before his relocation from the Big Pomme to Chico, Henri spent a truly magical winter in Waikiki, staying in a small apartment leased by a darling little Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant I was seeing. Of course, we had to do it on the cheap, as I felt I could in no way compromise my experience there by working (although I was frequently tempted to offer my sartorial consultation services to hideously attired tourists). But life was good: buying fresh fish from local boys, drinking Mai Tais from a Thermos at sunset at Queen’s Surf Beach, and window shopping along Kalakaua Avenue.
We also often made a complete meal out of two or three different types of poke, a simple Hawaiian salad usually made with raw fish and served as a pupu, or appetizer, and almost always on the table at luaus.
For centuries, Hawaiian fishermen cut their catch into small pieces, which they marinated in various oils with spices and seaweed—poke (PO-kee) translates to “cut piece.” In the 1970s, the delicious dish began migrating out of native Hawaiian villages and into restaurants and grocery stores, where it’s made fresh, and six or seven types are sold alongside whole fish at the fish counter. Traditionally, the main ingredient in poke is fresh ahi, although modern incarnations feature many other kinds of fin fish, as well as octopus, crab, avocado, tofu and pork. Other defining ingredients include sesame oil, soy sauce, seaweed, sea salt and onion. Optional ingredients range from red-pepper flakes and crushed macadamia nuts to wasabi and ginger.
An excellent choice for holiday parties—whether you’re attending a potluck or hosting your own gathering—poke is easy to make, serve and eat, often on light crackers. It’s also refreshingly light, especially compared to so many other holiday dishes. This year at Chez Bourride, Colette will be cooking a prime rib for the holidays, along with her sourdough-and-herb stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, spinach loaf and scalloped onions. Meanwhile, I’m in charge of appetizers and dessert, the latter most likely my famous apple-crumble pie, and for hors d’oeuvres two different pokes, one with traditional ahi and, using local crab finally available in the stores, one with lots of delicious fresh Dungeness.
Notes: 1) Seaweed for poke is available in Chico at S&S Produce and Natural Foods, Chico Natural Foods, some grocery stores, as well as House of Rice; 2) Poke also goes well with Champagne—and it is, after all, the season. Juste sayin’.
1 lb. fresh ahi tuna, cut into half-inch cubes
1/2 cup onion, minced
1 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons crumbled wakame or nori seaweed
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, mixing well, cover, and chill for a couple of hours. Serve over white rice or on light crackers, with a decent Chardonnay.
Henri’s Dungeness crab poke in lettuce cups
Meat from one fresh (cooked) Dungeness crab
1 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup minced green onion
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons crumbled or nori seaweed
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
8 leaves iceberg lettuce
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except for the lettuce. Cover and chill for a couple of hours. Arrange the lettuce leaves on a serving platter, ladle a quarter to a half cup of poke onto each one. Serve with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or even a Riesling, if you’re so inclined.