Mai Tai—Roa Ae!

Sunday Dinner – 3 June 2018

Our neighborhood grocer had pork loins on sale, so this week’s Sunday Dinner was a Trader Vic’s inspired faux Polynesian feast.

Char Siu Plated

I began preparations on Saturday with the marinade for the pork. The Char Siu recipe comes from an old Trader Vic’s cookbook, and consists of equal parts brown sugar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and ketchup. That all went in to a ziplock bag with the pork loins.

The sides for this meal came from Rebecca Crum’s Ezra Pound Cake site. I put together the Hawaiian Macaroni Salad on Saturday evening before we left for Mass.

I still hadn’t decided on the vegetable side until Sunday morning. Finally went with an Asian-flavored slaw, based loosely on Rebecca’s recipe. It was a package of slaw shreds, some chopped roasted peanuts, and this dressing.

Asian Slaw Dressing

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • sesame seeds
  • 1/2 Tablespoon powdered ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce

Sunday morning at 9 AM maybe wasn’t the best time to perfect a Mai Tai recipe, but adversity builds character. After a couple of failed attempts (too strong, too sour) here’s the final concoction.

Mai Tai
Mai Tai

  • 1 oz Bacardi Gold
  • 1 oz Myer’s Dark Rum
  • 1 oz Orange Curaćao
  • 1 oz Crème de Almond
  • 1 oz Rose’s Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz Grenadine
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime

Shook the heck out of that with crushed ice, decanted into a tumbler with cubes, and garnished with an orange wedge, a pineapple chunk and a cocktail cherry.


The appetizer recipe came from a site that, sadly, is no longer online. It’s a healthier, vegetarian version of Trader Vic’s Rumaki (chicken livers and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, smothered with brown sugar). The water chestnuts are still there for the crunch, the smoky bacon flavor comes from liquid smoke in the mushroom marinade, and pineapple chunks add some sweetness.

Veggie RumakiVeggie Rumaki

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 4 T white vinegar
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t powdered ginger

Pour some of the marinade over 2 cans of water chestnuts.

Add a teaspoon of liquid smoke to the remainder, and pour it over a pound of white mushrooms cut into bite sized pieces.

Let these sit in the fridge for a couple hours, then skewer them with chunks of pineapple, and cook them on the grill or in a 450°F oven for about 15 minutes. We served these while the rest of the meal was cooking


I cooked the pork loins on the Weber Kettle, over direct heat with some Hickory wood. I made another rookie mistake this week, pulling the loins off when they “looked done” instead of checking the internal temperature. So they had to go back out for another five minutes over high heat. They probably cooked for 25 minutes total. The last step was to sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top.

I also roasted some baby carrots and scallions on the Genesis gas grill while the pork was cooking.

Carrots and Scallions

The pork can be served with mustard and sweet sour sauce on a King’s Hawaiian roll as a slider.

Char Siu Slider

We had a nice bottle of Stephen Millier California Zin with the meal. I managed to sneak in a Shiner Bock or two during the afternoon as well. It’s the Cowboy Way.

For dessert, Mrs. Noe baked an Angel Food Cake, and cut it into pieces for dipping in a simple orange/chocolate fondue, along with pieces of apple, banana and strawberries. Had I not been an idiot and forgotten about the pineapple chunks we had left, we would have dipped them too.

Music for the afternoon was courtesy of Jason Croft’s Bachelor Pad Radio. I’ve been listening to his show on Friday nights for decades now, and it always delights.

Overall, it was a satisfying meal and a lot of fun. The only thing that needs work is the macaroni salad. It just didn’t have much zing. I added some soy sauce, ginger and Bacos to try to kick it up a bit, but it was still a little bland. Maybe need to add some more vinegar next time, or some cheese shreds or something. Tarragon, maybe.

Until next week, Aloha ʻOe!

Cowboy With Shiner

First Run at Chicken-Fried Steak

I spent some time in Texas recently at a conference for work, and on our last night there we ate at Horseshoe Hill in Fort Worth. It’s owned by Chef Grady Spears, and specializes in chicken-fried steak. In Texas, chicken-fried steak is a religion, and Spears is the high priest.

Prior to that night I had only had CFS as a sandwich patty from food service at the hospital where I volunteered as a teenager. It had been deep fried from frozen, I suspect, and tasted about like you would imagine. I had always enjoyed hand-made versions of CFS’ little sibling, the breaded pork tenderloin, over the years, and figured Spears’ offering would be sort of the beef equivalent. I had no idea that it would be a revelation.

Chicken-Fried Steak at HHThe meal, from start to finish, was amazing. Several of us around the table enjoyed appetizers, including some incredible fried okra and Rocky Mountain Oysters (hard pass from me on those). There was also plenty of cold Shiner Bock consumed.

I ordered my entrée “The Cowboy Way,” served with mashed potatoes, black pepper gravy and a grilled green onion. The very first fork full set my taste buds spinning. For such simple ingredients, the taste was dumbfounding. With the crunchy, golden crust, rich and slightly toothsome beef, and that silky gravy with the peppery bite – it was easy to understand why Chef Spears’ version of this classic has become its undisputed standard.

I am a large man with a huge appetite, and I found it impossible to finish the gargantuan portion in one sitting. Luckily the Marriott where we were lodged provided a small refrigerator in the room, and my breakfast plan for the next morning. :)

Friends at Horseshoe Hill

Some of the group opted for dessert. I couldn’t eat another bite, but was tempted by another Southern classic, banana pudding.

Off and on during the evening, a handsome man with a warm smile wearing a ballcap, a neatly-trimmed beard and an untucked shirt would pop into the room, quickly attend something, and then disappear. My boss, Stena, referred to him as “random guy.” As we were leaving, he came in again, fussed with something briefly, laughed and nodded at Stena’s greeting, and then followed us out to take a group photo. We realized only later that he was Chef Spears, which is sort of like not realizing until later that Nolan Ryan was taking your picture outside Arlington Stadium. He was friendly, unassuming and gracious.

In the week since my return from the trip, the memory of that meal has become an obsession. I was able to find Chef Spears’ recipe on the Texas Monthly site, and decided to do my best to replicate it at home. The prospects were a bit daunting, since I very rarely fry anything. Sauté, yes, but not fry. So I looked at this as an opportunity to add another skill to my culinary bag of tricks.

For a first attempt, it didn’t turn out badly. The gravy was perfect. Claudia loved the grilled onions, remarking that they reminded her of onion rings. The flavor of the steaks was incredible. I think that the cuts (top sirloin pan steaks) could have used just a bit more of the mallet. It’s not that they were tough, but some bites were on the chewy side of toothsome.

The breading is where I could really use some work. My guess is that I didn’t get the temperature of the oil quite right. The first steak I cooked was fairly blackened, so I pulled back the heat and must have overcompensated. The ones we ate had a little too much saturation for my taste.

If I were independently wealthy, I would be on the phone trying to contact the chef right now, begging him to let me come work in his establishment and watch what they do for a few weeks. As it is, I’ll have to be content to experiment with more breaded-and-fried things until I figure out how to do it right.