Imprecision Cooking: Lu'au Leaf

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Imprecision Cooking: Lu'au Leaf

So this is an uniquely Hawai’i problem: we are having a bumper crop of kalo. We (that is, Sol, with me hovering in a completely useful and unannoying way) had moved some stuff around in our garden, and made some raised beds. I planted seeds (basil, tomato, lettuces, green onions, cilantro, eggplant), fertilized with Pro-Em (which is amazeballs, by the way), and in just a few weeks, we had… kalo?!

In my loud but completely unscientific opinion, the kalo bits had gone into hibernation and we awoke them by tilling the soil. There’s kalo everywhere, even in the compost heap!

Most folks know kalo for using the corm for poi and the lu’au leaf for laulau. This kalo, since it’s grown in the garden, have small corm and huge leaves, so no poi for us. And we don’t have an imu handy, so no old-school laulau.

But we make do. Here are three ways to cook lu’au leaf, that don’t require an imu:
1.       Stew lu’au
This is a favorite of my in-laws and about as easy as it gets.
-Meat, 2-4 lbs. Sol likes pork. I like beef. He’s doing the buying and cooking, so pork it is.
-Lu’au leaf, a bunch as big as two or three cats. I said it was imprecise! It will cook down.
Here’s the key: cut up the leaves small, like the sized of your phone, or smaller. Not only will they cook faster, they will fit on your spoon. Lu’au is already a food that non-ethnic people find intimidating and gross; having pieces twice as long as your utensil is like a caricature.

Ok, so cube your meat, fry up in a big pot. Add lu’au leaf. Add water so that the meat is covered. Add salt to taste. Hang out for a while so everything cooks down. Eat!

2.      Slow cooker special
-Ti leaves, 8-10. You might want to take the midribs out.
-Lu’au leaves, 10-15. You can cut them up if you want.
-Meat, a pound or so. Or fish. Or not. I don’t like having meat all the time.
-Coconut milk, two cans. Or one can if you're scurrred.
-Sweet potato, cubed.
-Garlic, to taste. I use about 15 cloves, because I’m a garlic head.
-Salt, at least a tablespoon. I undersalt stuff.
-Niceties, to taste, if you like. Some niceties include: cumin, chili, cilantro, chopped onion.

First, the ti leaves line everything. You could just put everything in one of those plastic, slow cooker bags, but I freak out about plastic, so I’m going with leaves where I can. Make a layer of lu’au, then one layer of meat rubbed in salt and a splash of coconut milk, another layer lu’au. Then chop up your lu’au stems really fine, and make a layer of coconut milk, salt, garlic, sweet potato, and stems. Then, another layer of lu’au, then the meat layer, then lu’au, then garlic layer, and so on. When you reach the top, put a layer of ti leaves, throw that baby on high, and walk away! Set it, and forget it! He he he. Cook maybe 6 hours, but who is gone from home at work only 6 hours? No one. Eight hours is fine.

3.      Just add to stew
-Lu’au leaves, a bunch the size of a cat.
-Beef stew. Or whatever stew you like.

Chop up your lu’au leaves (see directions above). Parboil them while you are prepping your stew ingredients, then drain. Start making your stew. After meat, add lu’au leaves, then make the rest of the stew like normal. That’s it.

And don’t forget to test your food, to see if it makes your throat itchy. If it does, just let yourself get lost in looking up stuff on YouTube, and when you’re done, it will be ready.

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