Grondin’s Most Technically Challenging Dish: Cassoulet
One of Grondin’s best-selling entrées is also the most complicated to make.
2015 Hale ‘Aina Awards: Best New Restaurant, Finalist — Grondin
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Years before Grondin opened, cassoulet was already on the menu. Ideas for the French-Latin kitchen in Chinatown had long been percolating in the minds of owners Jenny Grondin and Dave Segarra, tributes to Grondin’s French heritage and Segarra’s Ecuadorean roots. When they pitched their concept of bicultural terroir cuisine to French-trained chef Andrew Pressler, he got it immediately. “I wouldn’t think of doing a bistro-style menu without the cassoulet,” he says.
There was one problem: Rustic as the bean stew’s roots are, many key ingredients are higher end and not readily available in Hawai‘i. “If I bought the quality of bacon and garlic sausage I would normally buy for a dish like this, I would have to have them imported,” says Pressler, who learned the dish from his mentor, three-Michelin-star chef Christian Delouvrier. “And we’d have a $30 bean stew.”
In the villages of the French countryside where cassoulet was born, Pressler could buy meat ingredients from the butcher and beans and tomatoes at the market. At Grondin, where it’s one of the best-selling entrées, he swaps out what he can and makes the rest of the ingredients himself. He names the humble stew as the restaurant’s single most technically challenging dish.
1. All that jus. Not veal, beef or chicken stock, but Grondin’s master jus goes into the stew—a rich, simmered reduction of duck, beef, pork and chicken bones.
2. Uncased and free. Pressler’s country sausage has ground pork shoulder and fat back, garlic, white wine and pepper. He cooks it in terrine molds and leaves it overnight to set. Prep time: 24 hours.
3. Low, slow and sweet. Hawai‘i doesn’t have the late-summer combo of hot days and cool nights that produces ultra-sweet tomatoes, so Pressler uses canned San Marzanos, confited in olive oil in a low, slow oven.
4. Yup, pig’s feet. Shinsato pork trotters are brined 24 hours, then braised in master jus for six hours and cooled overnight before the meat gets pulled off the bones. Prep time: three days.
5. Melt. Those unctuous gobs of melt that your teeth sink into? That’s the skin from the trotters.
6. Hello, pig. A bacon fiend, Pressler cures Duroc pork belly for five days, then smokes it over lychee wood for another day and cools it before cooking. Prep time: six days.
7. Tarbais or not tarbais. Pressler couldn’t find a local source of tarbais beans—the traditional favorite for cassoulet—so he went with cannellinis, which hold their shape, keep the look of the dish and deliver a hint of nuttiness.
Photo: Steve Czerniak
Grondin French-Latin Kitchen, 62 N. Hotel St., 566-6768, grondinhi.com.
To find out which other restaurants won awards in the Best New Restaurant category, click here.