A Nut From Hawaii
FOOD FOR THOUGHT - December 10, 2008 - Mark R. Vogel
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A friend of mine with Hawaiian roots always brings me back a bag of macadamia nuts whenever she returns from a visit there. Bless her dear little heart. You know you have a good friend when they facilitate the gratification of your indulgences; and macadamia nuts are a lavish indulgence indeed. Probably the most unctuous nut on the planet, their buttery texture and comforting taste mirror all that is glorious of the island paradise that is our 50th state. Sprouting from the rich volcanic soil of the islands, they are a decadent delicacy.
But despite our association between macadamias and Hawaii, they are actually Australian in origin. They are named after John Macadam (1827-1865), a Scottish-born, Australian chemist, teacher, politician and early pioneer in their scientific classification and propagation. Somewhere around the 1880’s they were brought to Hawaii where the soil and climatic conditions were equally fortuitous for their cultivation. Now Hawaii and Australia lead world production but other subtropical countries and even California grow macadamias as well.
Like most luscious victuals macadamias are a little expensive. Macadamia trees require notable attention and favorable climatic conditions to provide reliable and ample yields, (about 60-150 lbs. per year). Macadamia trees, which grow from six to forty feet, don’t even produce nuts for their first ten years. Thus, the cost of tending to them for a decade is completely uncompensated. But their cost is also due to another interesting feature of the macadamia: they have incredibly hard shells. A standard nutcracker is useless for it takes approximately 300 lbs. per square inch to crack them! The trick is breaking them open without obliterating the rich flesh inside. Therefore, they are labor intensive. And if that’s not enough to add to the cost of production, the trees are also quite vulnerable to pests.
Macadamias taste so good because of……..yes, their fat content of course. However, most of their fat content is composed of the heart friendly monosaturated fats. Monosaturated fats have been demonstrated to lower cholesterol. Moreover, macadamias also contain fiber, selenium and phytic acid (all alleged to have anti-cancer properties), as well as an array of other vitamins and minerals. But I could care less. They taste outrageously good and that’s the end of the story for me. Because of the high fat content it is recommended that you refrigerate your macadamias if they aren’t being consumed in the near future. All fats can turn rancid. On a side note, macadamias are toxic to dogs. Just in case your nuts enough to waste this extravagant nut on Fido.
Macadamias are used in all kinds of baked goods and desserts: pies, tarts, cakes, icings, mousses, muffins, the list goes on and on. But they are also utilized in an array of savory dishes such as salads, couscous, and ravioli. A particularly popular method is to use crumbled or ground nuts as a coating, often for seafood such as salmon, scallops, or my shrimp recipe below.
For the marinade:
• 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
• 2 tablespoons rice wine
• 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 2 garlic cloves, finely minced or crushed through a garlic press.
For the batter:
• 2 ½ oz. flour plus extra for dredging
• 2 ½ oz. ground macadamia nuts
• 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
• 5 oz. milk
• 1 extra large or 2 medium sized eggs
For the sauce:
• 5 oz. chicken broth
• 2 ½ oz. (5 tablespoons) rice wine
• 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
• 2 garlic cloves, finely minced or crushed through a garlic press
• ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
• ½ tablespoon plus an extra pinch of arrowroot
• 2 scallions, finely chopped
Preheat a pot of vegetable oil to 350 degrees.
Clean the shrimp, remove the tails, and butterfly them.
Combine all of the ingredients for the marinade. Place the shrimp in the marinade for 30 minutes.
Combine and whisk all of the ingredients for the batter.
Combine all of the ingredients for the sauce except the arrowroot and scallions. Bring the sauce to a simmer.
Combine the arrowroot with just a small splash of water and whisk to form a slurry. When the sauce reaches a simmer whisk in the arrowroot, and simmer for another minute. Remove the sauce from the heat or keep it on the lowest heat setting.
Remove the shrimp from the marinade. Dredge each shrimp in flour shaking off the excess. Dip in the batter and then deep-fry just until golden brown.
Garnish the sauce with the scallions and serve with the shrimp.
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