Local chef rises to challenge of new cuisine

Shane Farkash’s biggest challenge in taking the job as head chef for the Mediterranean restaurant Casa Blanca at Kiahuna in Po‘ipu was learning to come up with creative dishes without using shoyu and rice. Growing up on the North Shore, that’s what he’d always been used to.

Farkash is a graduate of Kapa‘a High School and the culinary school at Kapi‘olani Community College on O‘ahu. After working a few years on the Mainland, Farkash was ready to return to Kaua‘i and work at a local restaurant.

“I wanted to come home,” he said. “But it’s definitely been a challenge for me here (at Casa Blanca). The idea is that we’re into creating very good Mediterranean cuisine. So that’s no shoyu, no rice. Everything for me has been Pacific Rim.” But the challenge, Farkash said, is part of the excitement of being a chef. Although Farkash has been cooking for more than 10 years, this is his first experience being a head chef.

“I’m always experimenting,” he said. “It’s something I love to do. What we’re doing in the kitchen isn’t rocket science, but basically what we do is the science of food. And it’s a lot of experimenting.

It’s adding or making small changes to things and it’s an entire new dish.” It’s the challenge he faces at the restaurant and the experimenting to create Mediterranean dishes that makes him a better chef, he said.

“There should always be something that keeps us on our toes. It’s the fear that I might not create something new that let’s me know that I’m still learning, which is every day,” he said.

“The hardest part is the beginning, because once you figure out the base ingredient that you want to create something around, you’re pretty much rolling and the pieces fall into place.” The Spanish dish Garides Youvetsi (shrimp and Feta cheese) is a dish he came across at the restaurant, but added a couple changes to make it his own.

“The secret is making the tomato sauce ahead of time. Once you make it you can let it sit in the refrigerator and keep it until you’re ready to make the whole dish, because the shrimp and the onions will cook really quickly,” he said.

“Remember, though, that tomato is the first flavor. The honey and the onion should be much lighter. You can always add more to it if you want, but you can never add less. So you don’t want to add too much.” For making his rich chocolate mousse for dessert, he said you need patience.

“You have to spend time with the mousse, because every second you step away from it, you’re losing air. You lose the fluffiness. You can’t step away and do something else,” he said.

Garides Youvetsi

11/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 tablespoons salt and pepper, or to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 bunch green onions, including tender green tops, minced

2 cloves, garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

3 tablespoons fresh basil or dill, chopped

1 teaspoon honey or sugar

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/2 pound Feta cheese

4 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Sprinkle the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp to the pan and sear quickly on both sides. Remove pan and set aside. (Refrigerate if not cooking with 15 minutes.) In a large saute pan over high heat, warm 1/4 cup of the oil. In same pan, over medium heat, warm remaining 1/4 cup oil. Add the yellow onion and saute until tender and translucent, roughly eight to 10 minutes.

Add the green onions, garlic, oregano and basil or dill and cook five minutes longer. Add tomatoes, honey and wine. Simmer briskly to thicken, roughly eight to 10 minutes.

Divide half of the tomato sauce among four ramekins. Divide shrimp evenly among ramekins. Spoon the remaining tomato sauce over shrimp. Top each with Feta cheese. Bake until the shrimp are cooked and the cheese melts, roughly seven minutes.

Chocolate Mousse

2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate chips, to melt

4 ounces unsalted butter

4 ounces water

4 ounces of milk, scalded

18 eggs separated, yolks in one bowl and whites in another

2 cup of heavy whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks

Melt chocolate, butter, water and milk in a double boiler. (Or place chocolate mixture in a bowl resting on top of a pot or boiling water to melt. The bowl should sit atop the pot and not be resting on the water.) While the chocolate is melting, start to whip the egg yolks into chocolate mixture.

Once that’s done, remove from double- boiler. Take the heavy whipping cream and fold into chocolate, folding with spatula and not whisking it.

Whip the egg whites into thick, stiff peaks, then fold mixture together. Pour into desired serving container and let sit and chill for an hour. Top with whipped cream and shavings to garnish, and serve.

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