Last month I saw a tweet from Marx Foods about a photography challenge they were having for salt. I told them I was interested and I received 5 samples of cooking and finishing salts: Hawaiian Red Salt, Hawaiian Pink Salt, Ginger Salt, Espresso Salt & Flor de Sal. I was tasked to create two photographs: one of just salt, and the other of a finished dish that shows the salt well.
Immediately, the dish kālua pig popped into my head. I’m in the process of planning a vacation with my family and my sister’s Girl Scout troop to Hawai’i, so Hawai’i has been on my mind. We intend to have a “Hawai’i Day” next spring before going on the trip to expose the girls to the food and culture of Hawai’i so they don’t experience culture shock when they land on the island.
Kālua pig is one of the most popular dishes in Hawai’i, and is featured everywhere from the diner-style mix plate lunches locals eat midday, or the elaborate luau feasts held for special occasions (or tourists). It’s also one of the hardest dishes to find on the mainland, especially the east coast! We usually bring our kālua pig with us from Hawai’i on the plane, frozen, or have it shipped to us from the islands.
But, seeing the Hawaiian red & pink salt in the package from Marx Foods reminded me that the only ingredients in kālua pig are pig and Hawaiian sea salt. I then began to research how to recreate a mini imu in my oven at home. It seemed that all the recipes were for larger pieces of meat, and varied on temperature and time.
I settled on a 1.75 piece of pork butt and cooked it at 350 for 2 hours and 45 minutes. I cut 1/4 inch deep slices every inch and rubbed it with 2 tablespoons of a mixture of red and pink Hawaiian salt and 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke. I wrapped the pork with banana leaves secured with toothpicks and then wrapped with aluminum foil. I set it in a small baking dish and then put it in a larger dish. I added 2 cups water in the outer dish and set in the oven. I took the pork out after 2 hours to check on it, added 45 more minutes and 1 more cup of water around the dish. After 2:45 the pork was perfectly tender and easy to shred with 2 forks. I would suggest serving this dish hot and fresh. If you have leftovers, sprinkle with water before heating up or serve with a sauce to add some moisture back in. I ate some with rice and some red chile tortillas for lunch.
In my excitement to make this dish, I forgot that all of the beautiful salt would dissolve when cooking! I then used the other three salts on some milk chocolate caramels and shared them with my friend Stephanie.
The ginger salt was surprisingly very strong and spicy flavored. After eating the caramels, the spice lingered in the back of our throats for a while. The espresso salt was a tad milder and sweeter than the ginger salt. The flor de sal was strong and straight-forward and paired perfectly with the sweet chocolate and gooey caramel.The salt granules were softer and smaller than the other two flavors, so the salt was easier to mix with the chocolate and caramel while tasting.
While we were tasting pork and caramels, we also decided to try the new Top Chef: Just Desserts truffles from Godiva that I had picked up over the weekend.
From top left, clockwise: Acai Berry – Dark chocolate ganache layered with acai, rose, and berry ganache in a dark chocolate shell decorated with a red heart; Passion Fruit – White chocolate and passion fruit ganache in a white chocolate shell; Chocolate Mendiant – Dark chocolate ganache between two dark chocolate disks, topped with bits of organic dried apricot, tart cherry, and sea salt; Green Tea – Matcha tea mousse center in a white chocolate shell decorated with green stringing.
The berry ganache tasted like alcohol or cough syrup, the passion fruit was bright, fresh, and smooth, the mendiant was rich but balanced with the salt, and the green tea was far too rich with the white chocolate and too much artificial green tea flavor in the center.