Tuesday, July 03, 2007

There’s a Pig in My Oven

The warm weather got me reminiscing about growing up in Hawaii. I miss the beaches, my nephews and nieces, and kalua pig. Of all the Hawaii culinary dishes, this is my all-time favorite.

No, kalua pig is not Kahlua pig so there’s definitely no alcohol involved in the preparation (although I’ve had several friends who hoped there were). It’s basically a reference to the way the pig is prepared. In the traditional Hawaiian way, an outdoor pit is dug up (usually near where a luau is about to take place) and hot stones are thrown in. Bamboo and ti leaves are thrown on top and then an entire pig that’s been generously salted is lowered into the pit. More leaves are used to cover it up and then the pig is buried in this stone ground oven, known as an imu, for hours, sometimes a whole day. Then you get this luscious slow-cooked kalua pig that can feed a whole hula halau (that’s a hula troupe).

Of course, I don’t have an outdoor imu, nor do I have an “outdoor” because I live in a studio condo. So I roast my pig in the oven. And it’s really not a pig, but just its butt. The pork butt—more commonly called pork shoulder these days because I guess butt sounds too offensive—is the best part for slow-roasted pig because it’s cheap and has a bit of fat for flavor. I’ve seen many recipes for kalua pig in a conventional oven and a lot of it throws in complicated steps like creating a steam effect with layered trays or multiple ingredients to add a different twist. But the core of kalua pig is basically the pork and Hawaiian sea salt.

So below is my no-nonsense kalua pig recipe. It’s super simple, uses only three ingredients and is great for summertime picnics. What I do is I make my kalua pig early and then wrap them in individual aluminum packets that I throw onto a covered grill. The added smoke from the grill makes the kalua pig taste just like it came out from an imu!

BTW, to create the smoky flavor I used liquid smoke, and I know that the words “all-natural liquid smoke” sounds like an oxymoron but I did read somewhere that the process used to create liquid smoke that’s mark all natural is actually just that—they take the natural drippings of liquid from smoking grills. At least that’s what I read and I’m going to believe that’s true. Enjoy!

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