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The ‘cure’ for prosciutto cravings

Ono, You Know

January 14, 2018

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO

The editor is in prosciutto heaven at The Veranda within The Kahala Hotel & Resort.

For us carnivores out there, few things compare to the glory that is pork, and all the truly sumptuous ways we can enjoy it, from tearing into la creme de la creme of Kurobuta cuts to adding crispy strips of bacon to everything — and I mean everything.

One of my absolute favorite iterations of pork is a paper-thin, blush pink sheet of prosciutto, which is always ready to add its salty spunk to both sweet and savory applications. The Italian cured ham is salted, hung and dried for months on end before it is sliced and wrapped around pieces of cantaloupe, stuffed into sandwiches or piled onto pizzas.

Not only versatile, prosciutto also is well-varied, as many regions in Italy have their own style of curing the pork. This type of meat is not limited to Italy, either, as the Spanish have their own versions that they call jamon serrano and jamon iberico.

Proscuitto, pear, basil and fig jam tea sandwich from The Veranda

The real beauty of prosciutto, to me, is that it is salty, but still subtle enough to enhance any dish without overwhelming the entire flavor profile. Now it’s time for you to try out the dishes here and tell me if you agree.

Depending the type of prosciutto or jamon, the curing process can range anywhere from 10 to 24 months.

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The Kahala Hotel & Resort is known for elevating local flavors and making the most of superb island-sourced ingredients, but the iconic hotel also is well versed in melding that taste of Hawaii with an international array of cuisines — just look at its worldly curry buffet offered Wednesdays at Plumeria Beach House, or the European and Asian influences that season its menus across the resort.

So it’s not at all surprising that executive chef Wayne Hirabayashi is not only a fan of prosciutto, but also has found elegant ways to incorporate it into multiple dining destinations within The Kahala.

Proscuitto Avocado Toast lunch special from Plumeria Beach House

At The Veranda, guests can sit down for heavenly afternoon tea service or enjoy pupus and a drink in the spacious, al-fresco lanai. It’s there that you can bite into a tea sandwich filled with prosciutto, salt-roasted pear, basil and fig jam, all tucked into organic sprouted wheat bread (sandwiches a la carte for $20, classic tea service for $50; additional tea options available). The sweetness of the fig jam really pops against the salty backdrop of the prosciutto.

Head downstairs to Plumeria Beach House, and you may just stumble upon the Prosciutto Avocado Toast lunch special, served with fried egg and crispy prosciutto. The cured meat is even used to make a prosciutto vinaigrette.

“As you can see, prosciutto is so versatile,” says Hirabayashi. “You can serve it as is, you can cook it, you can make a vinaigrette out of it, etc. It’s salty, but yet delicate, and it has an exotic flavor.”

Hirabayashi adds that when available, The Kahala sources Spanish jamon iberico, which is very similar to prosciutto, but even more refined, as it’s made from Iberian pigs known to graze on wild acorns.

Romano’s Butternut Asiago Tortellaci

While at The Kahala, ask about the five-course Trefethen Wine Dinner 50th Anniversary Celebration with pairings at Hoku’s Jan. 24 ($165 per person), and look out for the new menu at Plumeria Beach House debuting Jan. 15.

A connoisseur’s palate can pick up on the nuanced flavors in different types of prosciutto, which are influenced by the curing process, as well as the climate and diet of the pigs.

MAMMA MIA!

If you want to experience an Italian ingredient at its best, then you have to go to a restaurant that makes you want to say, “Molto delizioso!” after each bite.

That place, my friends, is Romano’s Macaroni Grill in Ala Moana Center, where authentic Italian flavors permeate the menu of amorefilled dishes.

The family-friendly restaurant has found many delicious uses for prosciutto, starting with the Baked Prosciutto and Mozzarella ($8.50) appetizer. What could be more comforting than melted cheese? In this pupu, oozing chunks of mozzarella are wrapped in prosciutto that’s been crisped up by the eatery’s pizza oven. Use the crispy flatbread to scoop up each cheesy bite along with house-made spicy arrabbiata tomato sauce. And you’ll love the aromatic surprise of fresh basil inside.

Like all the prosciutto masterpieces at the eatery, the appetizer is made with a high-quality Northern Italian type of prosciutto known as speck, which is lightly smoked for a distinctive flavor.

Romano’s Baked Prosciutto and Mozzarella

Romano’s has a new executive chef helping to make sure each dish is cooked to perfection, and although Jonathan Souza joined the team not long ago in November, he’s already cooking up customer favorites like an old pro — especially with dishes like Butternut Asiago Tortellaci ($17.95). The dish starts with four-cheese tortellaci pasta, whose creaminess is enhanced with velvety alfredo sauce. The flavor profile really starts to build complexity when the speck prosciutto is rendered down and made crispy, and the remaining fat is used to make a savory marsala sauce — perfect for cooking up the entree’s sweet morsels of caramelized butternut squash.

“When you render it down and get that nice fat and saltiness from the prosciutto, it ties in with the cheese and with the sweetness of the butternut squash — and that’s something only prosciutto can do,” says Souza.

The chef brings a wealth of experience to his new role, as the 2004 graduate of Kapiolani Community College’s culinary program has traveled extensively to help open restaurant ventures, and previously worked in Las Vegas before moving home to join the Romano’s team.

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