Crab-and-Potato-crusted Ono with Spinach and Bacon

Ono means delicious in Hawaiian, and it’s also the name of a kind of fish (commonly called wahoo on the mainland). This recipe comes straight out of Roy Yamaguchi’s fantastic cookbook, Roy’s Fish and Seafood. And yes, this ono is ono! Mahalo, Mr. Yamaguchi! Just reading the recipe seems a little daunting but most of it can be prepped ahead, so serving it to 24 guests is actually do-able. And ono.

For the fish:
½ c. warm mashed potatoes
½ c. fresh lump crabmeat, picked over for shell
1 T. julienned fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (7-oz.) ono fillets
1 T. canola oil

For the Creamed Spinach and Bacon:
3 slices bacon
1 t. minced shallot
1 t. minced garlic
12 oz. spinach washed and steamed
1 c. heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 carrots, peeled, thinly sliced, and blanched
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

To prepare the ono, put the mashed potatoes in a bowl. Add the crabmeat, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. And stir to thoroughly combine. Spread the mixture on one side of each ono fillet to form a crust. Heat the oil in a heavy nonstick sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the ono, crust side down, and sauté for 3 mins. until the crust turns golden brown. Turn the fillet over and sauté for about 2 mins. longer, or until opaque throughout.

To prepare the spinach, heat a dry, heavy sauté pan or skillet over medium heat for 2 mins. Add the bacon and sauté for 4-5 mins, until crisp. Remove and mince the bacon; set aside. Drain off all but 1 T. of the bacon fat and increase the heat to medium –high. Add the shallot and garlic. Immediately add the spinach and cool until it begins to wilt. Transfer to a colander and press with the back of a wooden spoon to release excess moisture. Chop the spinach and set aside. Pour the cream into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook to reduce the cream by about two-thirds or until thickened and paste-like. Add the spinach and cook for about 1 min. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.

In the center of warmed serving plates, arrange the blanched carrots and top with creamed spinach. Place the crusted ono on top of the spinach. Garnish the ono with the bacon and basil.

(To thinly slice the carrots, I used a vegetable peeler and simply made ribbons; these blanched very quickly in boiling water.)

For non-fish-eating guests, I set aside some of the mashed potatoes and withheld adding the crabmeat. I used these crab-free mashed potatoes to top chicken breasts that I had pounded a bit to thin out; then I cooked them the same way as the ono fillets.

Hawaiian Dinner Party

Time flies – whether you’re having fun or not – so we might as well party! Ten years after I threw a luau to celebrate my husband’s 50th, it was time to celebrate another decade. What with kids and the economy, we haven’t gotten back to Paradise as often as we would like, so it seemed natural to try to rekindle some great memories right here at home. And so I planned another Hawaiian-themed party for my husband’s 60th; this time it was a smaller-scaled Hawaiian dinner party for just very close friends and family. But like the luau, it was delicious, and we all had a really lovely time.

My kids were too busy with school to help with invitations, and our guest list only required 14 invitations, so I did them myself:

Then I planned the menu, with a little (well, a lot of) inspiration from Roy Yamaguchi.  I used his book, Roy’s fish and seafood for the entree; and I used his Banana-Macadamia Nut Bread recipe for party favors, from Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii.   

A few days before the party day, I raided my old supplies of luau stuff to set up for the party. Beach sheets (subbed in for tablecloths), Hawaiian-inspired tumblers, umbrella picks, coconut candles, and of course, fresh tropical flowers from Island Florals, and we were ready.

E komo mai, aloha!

Hawaiian Luau for a 50th-Birthday Party

A long time ago, my husband turned 50.  Fresh from a typical, fabulous vacation in Hawaii (is there any other kind?), I decided to throw him a luau to celebrate.I knew I could not really replicate the professional luaus in the islands, but I had read somewhere that a truly authentic luau was the type hosted in a kama‘āina’s backyard. Okay, I’m not a local, but I am a haole wahini, so I figured, why not?  My kids were little then (aged 5 and 7 years), but very enthusiastic, so I knew it could be a party that we would all enjoy.

The first thing we did were the invitations:

It helped knowing a few Hawaiian words to add some flavor to the invitation and the party: aloha (hello, good-bye, I love you), Aloha nui loa (very much love), E komo mai (welcome), hale (house), haole (foreigner), Hau‘oli lā Hānau (Happy Birthday), kama‘āina (local resident of the islands), imu (underground oven), kahuna (expert), keiki (child or children), lei (flower necklace), ‘ohana (family), ‘ono (delicious, also mackerel), Pūpū (appetizers), Wahine (woman), wikiwiki (hurry), Ali‘i (chief), ‘a‘ole pilikia (no problem), mahalo (thank you)…

Then I decided on the menu.  I was lucky because I had a few friends and family who were happy to help (well, that’s what they said!).

Party supplies (dinner plates, dessert plates, dinner napkins, dessert napkins, beverage napkins, and plastic forks, knives and spoons in solid tropical colors) came from Party City, and Oriental Trading provided a few more supplies and all the favors (tablecloths, assorted souvenir glasses for everyone, and more kid-oriented stuff for the keiki – children).

Tropical flowers came from Island Florals in Costa Mesa, California. I selected anthuriums, heliconia, ginger, orchid stems, ti leaves, bird of paradise, and palms – enough to fill vases for the dessert, beverage, and buffet tables, the dinner tables, and my living room mantel and coffee table.Arranging the flowers took about two hours the day before the luau, but the time was worth my trouble. Nothing says “paradise” like the flowers of Hawaii…

Set-up was straight-forward the morning of the party: I used my dining room table inside for the deserts, which would be arranged before the party (except for homemade ice cream, which I’d pull out last-minute).I set up the “Bali Hai Bar” on a patio outside, along with simple coolers to keep drinks cold. (I recruited a few friends the day of the party to skewer banana, strawberry, and pineapple wedges on the essential umbrella drink-pick…)Appetizers were set up on our backyard picnic table, and when dinner was ready, I cleared that table and set out the dinner buffet.Rented tables, chairs, and heaters had been arranged by the party rental company that morning also.Every island souvenir, tropical serving dish (including some from my mother-in-law that she had brought back from Guam in the 50’s), and relic of Hawaiiana I owned, was pulled out and used somehow.

Because this was a family-style luau, there were all ages.  Entertainment for the keiki was pretty relaxed.  The one planned activity for them took advantage of all the pineapple tops I had cut for the meal: every family went home with their own newly planted pineapple plant (directions linked here), courtesy of their keiki. And yes, I did try to involve my kids in the set-up and hosting: they were responsible for dressing up native teddy bears, greeting our guests with a lei, and filling out their name tags.  After that, it was every kid for themself!

The music we played was classic beach and luau: Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, and assorted Hawaiian CD’s we’d picked up at Hilo Hattie’s…

As the party wound down, each guest left with their pineapple plants, souvenir glasses, and leis.  They also took home a small scroll printed with the definition of aloha. live alohaThese wise words were written by Pilahi Paki, a Hawaiian sage who recognized the need for Aloha in Hawaii back in the 1970’s when tourism became airborne.  Her acronym says it all.  Thank you, Auntie Pilahi, and aloha to all of you reading!