RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Chef Nancy Oakes addressed a class at Kapiolani Community College Monday with the stovetop reflected in angled mirrors for audience view.
Tasty Carbonara dish replaces pasta with hearts of palm
James Beard Award-winning chef Nancy Oakes, of Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco, created this recipe in response to the Atkins diet "epidemic," as she called it.
Carbonara typically involves pasta, but this dish substitutes hearts of palm, available from Puna Gardens on the Big Island. In a presentation of California Cuisine, she prepared the dish for a group of culinary professionals and students Monday at Kapiolani Community College.
Hearts of Palm Carbonara
1/2 pound sliced guanciale, (pig's cheek; if not available in specialty stores, pancetta may be substituted)
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups sliced hearts of palm (see note)
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste
4 poached eggs
In a medium pan over medium heat, saut guanciale until fat is slightly rendered and meat is lightly colored. Add onions and saut until translucent. Add wine and reduce to almost dry, stirring occasionally, then add cream and reduce by half.
Add hearts of palm, toss and heat through. Add parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add Parmesan. Divide into 4 warmed bowls and serve immediately topped with poached egg (cook for three minutes in boiling water) and more cheese and parsley.
Nutritional information unavailable.
Note: To prepare hearts of palm, use base portions only and remove tough exterior. For best presentation, julienne using a mandoline or Japanese box grater.
Taking it up a notch
Chef Nancy Oakes and her fellow executive chef at Boulevard, Pamela Mazzola, offered tips to aspiring chefs and home cooks striving for excellence:
» The simplest details will distinguish you. This includes knife work, and the tools you use. Cooks seeking jobs at Boulevard must cut a variety of vegetables before they advance to an interview. If you work with large tongs, experts will label you a "hack." Learn to saut with a spoon or a fish spatula.
» Develop a repertoire of multicourse meals that defines you. Without consulting a recipe, you should be able to whip out something that thrills family and guests.
» Pay attention to every ingredient that goes into your meal. Understand the palate and building blocks of the food. Don't cook with wine you wouldn't consider drinking. The taste will get worse as it reduces. With olive oil, know the country of origin and examine the language on the label. "Packaged in Italy" indicates it was placed in the bottle there, using ingredients from anywhere. "Product of Italy" means it's created from olives grown in Italy. Big difference.
» Many skills make a great chef -- not just cooking. You need to manage finances and people, and become a team leader. Some of the same proficiencies apply if you entertain at home.
» Always strive for excellence. Be the best you can, no matter what you're cooking.