KOKO HEAD CAFE, HONOLULU, HI
At her island-cool Honolulu restaurant, chef Lee Anne Wong is celebrating the cuisine of her adopted state with dishes that honor Hawaiian traditions—but with a twist. According to Wong, the first loco moco originated on the Big Island of Hawaii in 1949, gaining favor with locals as a rib-sticking, inexpensive staple. In Wong’s signature “Koko Moco,” a highly seasoned, grass-fed beef patty rests on a crunchy-crusted skillet of rice; her house-made, umami-rific mushroom gravy is a vegetarian wonder.
- Make the beef patties: In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, Worchestershire, salt and black pepper. Using your hands, massage the mixture into the ground beef until well mixed, being careful to not overwork the meat. Form the beef into four 6-ounce patties, about 4 inches in diameter and 1⁄2 inch thick. Refrigerate, covered, until needed.
- Make the garlic oil: In a small saucepan, simmer the oil and smashed garlic cloves over low heat until the garlic begins to turn golden and the oil is fragrant, 20 to 30 minutes; cool to room temperature and remove the garlic cloves (save the cloves for another purpose if desired).
- Make and assemble the dish: Heat 4 individual 6-inch skillets on high heat until they begin to lightly smoke (or you can use a large nonstick pan and cut the rice in quarters once finished). Add a tablespoon of garlic oil to each of the skillets (or 1⁄4 cup oil to a large skillet, if using) and press one cup of rice into the bottom of each skillet (or all 4 cups if using a large skillet). Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until lightly golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Add 1⁄4 teaspoon of the minced garlic on the top of the rice and gently stir in; season with salt.
- Meanwhile, preheat a grill or grill pan over medium heat. Season the beef patties with salt and pepper and grill the beef patties until medium rare, 3 to 4 minutes per side. While the patties are grilling, in a medium nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon garlic oil over medium-high heat. Fry the eggs two at a time, sunny-side up (see page 233), and season with salt and pepper.
- Place a cooked patty on top of each skillet, and ladle 2⁄3 cup gravy on top of each burger. Top with a fried egg and garnish with the sliced scallion, togarashi, salt, and toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
- Remove the rehydrated shiitake mushrooms from the water, squeeze out the excess liquid, and reserve the mushroom water. Slice the rehydrated shiitakes into 1⁄4-inch thick slices and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat and cook the onions, stirring, until they begin to soften, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir well until incorporated (it will become thick like a dough). Slowly add in the mushroom soaking liquid, stirring out any lumps with a whisk until all of the liquid has been added. Continue to whisk and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes. Stir in the Maggi Seasoning, mushroom soy sauce, sugar, and black pepper
- In a small saucepan, bring the cremini stems, sage, and cream to a simmer and cook until the stems are tender, 5 minutes. Puree the cream and mushroom mixture in a blender until smooth, making sure to allow steam to escape through the lid. Add the puree to the mushroom gravy pot. Bring the mushroom gravy to a boil, whisking until smooth. Transfer the gravy to the blender and puree, being careful to fill the blender pitcher only halfway and allowing steam to escape through the lid. Return the finished gravy to a clean pot.
- In a large skillet, heat the garlic oil over high heat and add the quartered mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the sliced shiitakes to the pan and cook until all of the mushrooms are cooked and tender and have released their water, 3 to 4 minutes more. Add the cooked mushrooms to the mushroom gravy. Keep warm or refrigerate until needed (extra gravy will keep refrigerated, for 3 to 4 days).
Reprinted from America's Best Breakfasts. Copyright © 2016 by Lee Brian Schrager. Photographs copyright © 2016 by Evan Sung. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.