Gourmet Style: Classic American Comfort Food

8 Easy Recipes from Hale Aina Award-winning Chefs


(page 4 of 5)


Steak is so simple, it's hard to screw it up.  That's why it's a classic comfort food.

Photo: Monte Costa

Recipe from Chef Leighton Miyakawa

Cowboy Rib Eye with Creamed Spinach

1    stick butter            
¼ cup all purpose flour        
2   cups milk (or, for an even richer dish,     half and half)       
2   Tb. chopped onion           
1    bay leaf
¼ tsp. salt   
1    pound of well-cleaned and stemmed fresh spinach.           


1. To make Bechamel Sauce:

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it becomes foamy, add flour and stir until light brown in color. Add the onion and seasonings, and whisk in the milk, stirring until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Reduce the heat and cook for five minutes. Pass through a fine strainer and reserve. The sauce will be very thick.

2. To cook spinach: 

Cook spinach immersed in boiling water for one minute. Remove and refresh in ice water to cool it off. Squeeze until it’s very dry, then purée spinach in a food processor. Set aside.

3. Method:

Just before serving, combine the sauce with the puréed spinach and cook on low heat, stirring often, for about five minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Finish by stirring in 2 tablespoons of soft butter.

Photo: Monte Costa

This year, Ruth’s Chris at Restaurant Row won a silver Hale Aina Award for Best Oahu Restaurant. The Mauna Lani location, on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island, took home a bronze Hale Aina Award for Best New Neighbor Island Restaurant. Ruth’s Chris also has locations in
Waikiki, Lahaina and WaiLea.

Chef Leighton Miyakawa works his magic at Ruth’s Chris Waikiki, at the Waikiki Beach Walk. 226 Lewers St., 440-7910. www.ruthschris.com.


“I think steaks are a comfort food for the majority of people,” says chef Leighton Miyakawa. “It’s worldwide. Japan is starting to eat more steak, China is eating more steak. As the world becomes westernized, it becomes a comfort food all over. For Americans, it’s been in the American diet, starting with cowboys. It’s nice fond memories of family barbecues; it’s in our tradition, basically.”


Steak for Dinner

At Ruth’s Chris, the Cowboy Rib Eye is a bone-in, two-inch-thick, 22-ounce steak. “It’s aged four to five weeks and is U.S. prime, which only 2 percent of all beef in the U.S. is rated,” says chef Leighton Miyakawa. He says it’s difficult to buy that kind of meat at retail, so for home cooking purposes, Miyakawa suggests selecting the best meat you can afford, and getting a thick cut, one inch or more.

For seasoning, “all we do is salt the meat, using Hawaiian sea salt, and black pepper,” says Miyakawa. Don’t put the salt on too early, or it will start to draw the juices out of the meat; do it just prior to cooking. Miyakawa broils the steak, a high-heat process that sears the juices in and caramelizes the meat so it has a sweetness. For home cooks, he suggests using an outdoor grill. “You’ll get the smoky taste from the charcoal.”

Once the steak is done, let it sit 10 to 15 minutes. “The juice continues to circulate. Just let it settle. Then we put a dab of salted butter on the steak while it’s hot, the butter starts mixing in with the juices of the steak. It creates a natural sauce.”

But how do you know if the steak is done? Don’t cut into it, says Miyakawa, as that will let the juices run off. And save the meat thermometer for a roast. Instead, he says, “I do it by feel. If the steak’s soft, it’s on the rare side. It gets firmer and firmer as it’s getting more and more cooked. My personal preference is medium-rare; you loose all the flavor of the meat otherwise. But you can always throw it back on the grill if you think it’s too pink.”


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