The Hawaiian luau is an over-the-top eating extravaganza – the big kahuna of Hawaiian cooking. The centerpiece is kalua pig (ka meaning “the,” and lua meaning “hole”), which refers to the method of cooking in an imu, a Polynesian pit oven. Digging the pit, constructing the imu, and cooking the pig is an all-day affair (literally all day, requiring about 18 hours). So we offer a modified mainland method that is impressive in its own right. Even so, your standard gas or kettle grill will not suffice. A big barrel-shaped smoker-grill or a premium gigantic gas grill will work well; otherwise, you will have to rent a large party grill.
Prep: 45 minutes (plus 5 minutes for the lacquer)
Grill: About 3½ hours.
BBQ TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
– Heavy-duty aluminum foil
– Large needle, preferably curved (an upholstery needle works great)
– Heavy-duty thread
– Heavy-duty cotton kitchen twine
– Ti, palm, or banana leaves
– Large carving board.
LOMI LOMI SALMON
This marinated salmon salad is a traditional luau side dish.
Makes about 15 servings
2 pounds salmon fillet, skin and bones removed
Kosher salt, as needed
4 tomatoes, stemmed and diced
1 small red onion, diced
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced Juice of 1 lime
¼ to ½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Ground black pepper to taste
Slice the salmon thinly. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt, cover
with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Rinse and pat dry. Cut
into small pieces and toss with the remaining ingredients.
PROCURING A PIG
A suckling pig is not just a small pig; it is an infant. The North American Meat Processors Association has developed guidelines for butchering and sizing animals, to which all butchers subscribe. Under these guidelines animals are categorized by size, A through D. Unless you have a gargantuan grill, you want to purchase a pig in the A weight range, which is 12 to 24 pounds. These will cost much more per pound than larger pigs, but you will end up paying about the same amount for the whole pig. Most supermarket meat departments will not be able to get an item this specific, so we suggest you look for a good-quality Italian or Hispanic butcher.
THE GRILL (MINIMUM 36-INCH-WIDE BY 24-INCH-DEEP FIRE BED)
Indirect heat, low (225° to 250°F)
3- or 4-burner grill – middle burner(s) off
Clean, oiled grate
Indirect heat, heavy ash
Split charcoal bed (about 3 dozen coals per side)
60 to 80 replacement coals
Large, heavy-duty drip pan set between banks of charcoal
Clean, oiled grate on high setting
Indirect heat, heavy ash
2 beds, 8 by 8 inches, 2 inches deep
Additional wood for replacement
Clean, oiled grate set 6 to 8 inches above the fire.
INGREDIENTS (MAKES ABOUT 15 SERVINGS)
For the pig:
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups long-grain rice
1 can (about 14 ounces) coconut milk
2¼ cups water
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1½ cups coarsely chopped dried pineapple (6 ounces)
½ cup coarsely chopped crystallized ginger (2 ounces)
1 cup chopped dried apricots (4 ounces)
1 cup dried tart cherries
4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 suckling pig, dressed, about 20 pounds (left)
2 cups Red-Cooking Lacquer
1 lime (optional)
For the fruit and onions:
1 cup light brown sugar
½ cup dark rum
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 large pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced into ½-inch-thick rings
1 papaya, peeled, seeded, and sliced into wedges
2 star fruit, cut into ½-inch slices
1 orange, thickly sliced
2 limes, sliced
2 large sweet onions, such as Maui, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick rings
Lomi Lomi Salmon (recipe at left; optional).
1. For the pig, heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the coconut and stir until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes.
2. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add the coconut milk, water, red pepper flakes, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the pineapple, ginger, apricots, cherries, scallions, and vanilla. Cool completely. The stuffing can be made a day ahead and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before continuing.
3. Brush the cavity of the pig with ½ cup of the Red-Cooking Lacquer. Loosely fill the pig with the rice stuffing and sew the cavity shut, using the needle and heavy-duty thread.
4. Position the legs under the pig. The front legs will rest under the chin (the pig might come this way from the butcher), and the back legs should be set forward, bent from the hip, not the knee, so they extend along the belly. Tie the legs in place with several lengths of heavy-duty kitchen twine (see the illustration). Position the ears so that they cover the pig’s eyes, and tie twine over the ears to hold them in place. Cover the snout and tail with aluminum foil. Place a double thickness of foil around the front feet and under the loin and the back feet in the center of the pig. Stuff a ball of foil (or a block of wood) in the pig’s mouth if you are planning to serve it with a lime in its mouth.
5. Heat the grill as directed. Spread a double layer of aluminum foil on the grill grate, covering the area that is not directly over the heat. Line the foil with 2 to 3 layers of ti, palm, or banana leaves, and put the pig right-side up on top of the leaves. Cook, covered, for 2 hours, until the surface has begun to brown. If your grill has a temperature gauge, it should stay between 200° and 250°F. Replenish the charcoal or wood after the first hour.
6. Snip the twine and remove. Coat the outside of the pig with half of the remaining lacquer, cover the grill, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of one of the thighs registers 160°F, making sure that the thermometer is not touching bone, about 1½ hours longer. Brush with the remaining lacquer halfway through, and keep the temperature gauge at around 225°F. 7. For the fruit and onions, while the pig is roasting, mix the brown sugar, rum, cardamom, and sesame oil in a large saucepan; heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool. Add the fruit and onion slices just before the pig is done, and toss to coat.
8. Line a large carving board with ti, palm, or banana leaves. Remove the pig to the board and let it rest.
9. Grill the fruit and onion directly over the heat until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes per side, brushing several times with any extra glaze.
10. Pull the thread from the belly of the pig, and replace the wooden block or foil ball in the mouth with the lime, if desired; carve by cutting the pig into leg and shoulder sections and carving the meat from the bone. Cut the ribs into 2-rib sections. Serve the meat with the stuffing, grilled fruit and onions, and Lomi Lomi Salmon, if desired.