By Nadine Kam
Nadine Kam photos
Chef Jojo Vasquez of Banyan Tree Restaurant at Ritz-Carlton Kapalua claims his glass onion trophy from Ramsay Wharton as the winner of the Maui Onion Festival Recipe Contest, the final contest of the event on May 5. His recipe is at the end of this post.
The 23rd Maui Onion Festival with a recipe contest involving seven of the festival's featured chefs. The dishes prepared by Maui chefs Joey Macadangdang of Roy's Kaʻanapali, David Paul Johnson of David Paul's Island Grill, Jojo Vasquez and Oahu chefs Russell Siu of 3660 on the Rise and Kevin Hanney of 12th Avenue Grill and SALT Kitchen & Tasting Bar was amazing.
Siu took time off from his busy schedule that has included a spate of fundraisers, and L'ulu, the Leeward Culinary Arts Gala that was taking place the same evening as this competition. He had to prep 150 pounds of Shinsato Farms pork for 650 portions of Southwest-style dish his restaurant was serving up at L'ulu. Who says you can't be in two places at once!
In the end, Vasquez was the winner, beating Macadangdang by a mere point, and as one of five judges, it really could have gone either way. Vasquez wowed us with the silkiness of his liver (foie gras), onion and egg combination, while Macadangdang's Vietnamese-style lemongrass chicken bao with Maui onion curry also wowed us with the well-considered precision, complexity and layering of flavors and textures. His recipe appears at the end of this post.
Onion fans could get up close to judges and the food up for top honors. To pace ourselves, we could take only a few bites, so we offered attendees a bite of the delicious leftovers. There were many a dish I wanted to finish, but alas, I had reservations at Alan Wong's new restaurant Amasia that evening, to maximize my stay on Maui.
From left, chefs participating in the Maui Onion Festival recipe contest were Joey Macadangdang of Roy's Kaʻanapali, David Paul Johnson, Kevin Hanney of 12th Avenue Grill and SALT Kitchen & Tasting Bar on Oahu, Jojo Vasquez, Russell Siu of Oahu's 3660 on the Rise, and James McDonald, with Whalers Village marketing manager Lisa Donlon, and at right, host Cutty Cutler.
Chef Jojo Vasquez's winning dish of rich chawanmushi-style liver (foie gras) and onions presented in an eggshell cup.
Chef Kevin Hanney of 12 Avenue Grill and SALT Kitchen presented savory Maui onion French toast with Waimanalo crimini, frisee salad, local fried egg, Maui onion and housemade pancetta.
Russell Siu offered up caramelized Maui onion horseradish-crusted Kurobuta pork belly.
Chef Ivan Pahk of Cane & Taro's dish was pan-roasted opakapaka served over housemade linguine, with Hamakua mushrooms, Kahuku corn, red radish, pickled red chili and Maui onion demiglace.
I'o and Pacific'O Chef James McDonald's offering was an inspired Maui onion tart tatin as sweet as apple pie, served with Irish whiskey onion Anglaise sauce.
Fellow judge Ayngelina Brogan, the blogger behind Bacon is Magic, was eager to polish off David Paul Johnson's grilled island beef and Maui onion sliders. Me too, but I had to rush off to dinner at Amasia in the Grand Wailea.
Chef Joey Macadangdang of Royʻs Kaʻanapali added the adjective "Inspired" to the name of his lemongrass chicken bao with Maui onion curry, topped with crisp onion rings, pickled carrots and daikon, and the combined flavors were truly inspired. His recipe follows.Liver and Maui Onions
(From chef Jojo Vasquez, Banyan Tree Restaurant)
Maui onion savory custard with seared foie gras, balsamic Maui onions, onion croutons
1 liter Maui onion soup, warm
8 to 10 pieces foie gras, in 1-ounce portions
Temper soup and eggs ingredients together, season and strain. Pour into ramekins or ceramic vessels and wrap with plastic very tight. Steam for 30 minutes or until set. Cool at room temp or serve right away.
In very hot pan, sear foie gras on both sides until soft in center; about 1 minute on each side.
Presentation: Warm custard is topped with seared foie gras, balsamic onion and croutons. Garnish with sea salt and onion sprouts, enjoy.
Maui onion broth
1/4 cup grape seed oil
2 pieces Maui onion, chopped
6 pieces green leek tops
10 pieces scallion, whites
3 tablespoons white peppercorns
Salt, to taste
4 liters water
In sauce pot, sweat onions in oil, season, add water, bring to boil. Reduce to simmer for 30 minutes, strain.
Maui onion soup
2 tablespoons butter
4 cups Maui onion, chopped
2 pieces garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 cup white wine
2 pieces thyme sprig
1 bay leaf
4 cups Maui onion broth (from recipe above)
1/2 cup whipping cream
Salt and pepper to taste
In sauce pot, caramelize onions and garlic in butter. Deglaze with white wine until dry and add herbs. Cover with Maui onion broth and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer for 30 minutes and skim if needed. Add heavy cream and simmer for 5 minutes; remove from heat and season. Puree all in blender and strain.
Inspired Lemongrass Chicken Bao Bun
With Caramelized Maui Onions Aioli and pickled vegetables
(By Joey Macadangdang, Roy's Ka'anapali)
1 pound chicken thighs, sliced thin
1o ounces palm sugar
2 tablespoon yellow curry powder
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1o ounces garlic, minced
2 ounces Maui onions, sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, minced fine
½ ounce fresh ginger, minced
Salt and pepper
Mixed all ingredients in a bowl, take half of the mixture and hand chop to a small mince, then add the other half and mix together. Divide mixture into 8 portions and form into 2-ounce patties. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To cook: Place skillet over medium high heat with a little oil until it starts to smoke. Place lemongrass chicken patties in skillet and sear on both sides until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Steamed Milk Bao
½ teaspoons dry yeast
1-1/2 tablespoons warm water
1-1/2 ounces flour
8 ounces flour
2 ounces water
2 tablespoons milk powder
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lard
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 ounces wheat starch
To make the dough starter, sprinkle the yeast into the warm water and stir until completely dissolved, then sift on 1-1/2 ounces of flour and work into soft dough, kneading lightly. Set aside in a warm place for 2 hours.
Mix the water with 4 ounces of remaining flour, add the dough starter and work into a soft dough. Cover and let sit 4 more hours until it has tripled in bulk.
Add the milk powder, sugar, lard, baking soda, wheat starch, baking soda and the remaining flour with little water to the risen dough and knead together until smooth and elastic.
Divide dough into 12 balls and press a piece of paper onto the back of each; steam for about 10 minutes. Remove steamed buns and sear in a hot pan with a little oil, pressing the dough to flatten. Sear on both sides until crisped and golden brown. Reserve until needed.
Caramelized Maui Onion Aioli
1 whole slice Maui onion
4 ounces garlic aioli, premade or mayonnaise
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce
Mix ingredients together and reserved til needed.
Quick Pickled Vegetable Salad in Nampla
2 cloves fresh garlic
2 whole ripened Hawaiian chilis
1 ounce palm sugar
Juice of 1 lime
1 ounce white wine vinegar
2 ounces fish sauce
2 whole pieces Otani’s Heirloom baby carrots, sliced
2 ounces daikon, shaved
2 ounces red radish, shaved
2 ounces Maui onions, sliced
2 ounces cucumber, seeded and cubed
Pace the garlic, chili and palm sugar in a mortar and smash into a paste. Add lime juice, white wine vinegar and fish sauce. Add in vegetables and marinate until needed.
Curried Honey Carrot Purée
1 ounce shallots, minced
1 ounce garlic, minced
2 cups water
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 ounces chopped peanuts
1 ounce honey
½ cup Maui onions, minced
1 ounce red curry paste
Sauté garlic and shallots in a bit of oil until translucent. Add water, carrots, peanuts and honey and bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or until soft. Place carrots in the blender. Purée until very smooth then slowly add curry paste and blend again until curry paste has been incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble, place chicken patty on bao. Layer pickled vegetables on top of patty along with garnishes as desired, below. Accompany with Curried Honey Carrot Purée and Maui Onion Aioli