Sunny atmospheres and comforting autumn dishes at Loco Moco

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Loco moco, as fun to say as it is to eat, is a simple and satisfying fall dish inspired by warmer climates. A popular option for the classic dinner plate – a quintessential Hawaiian meal – the loco moco is said to have been created in 1949 in Hilo. Today, you’ll find that riff on what some call a “high Salisbury steak” on almost any traditional Hawaiian menu. (In Anchorage, try the local versions at Hula Hands and L and L Hawaiian BBQ.)

This recipe is inspired by Chef Brandon Heath of Kalei’s Lunchbox, a local favorite in Pukalani, Maui. The Lunchbox serves some of the best plate lunches on the island, with gravy galettes being a favorite. Variations include everything from added tofu and spam to Kalua pork. The classic “lunch plate” version is topped with a golden fried egg, making it “loco moco”.

The hunting season offers moose and caribou, so if you have the chance, substitute local game for ground beef. If you want to skip the rice, serve the patty, egg, and gravy on a soft bun for a burger twist. Some versions call for cornstarch porridge, but Heath maintains that you really need the fat for a good roux.

“And a good beef broth is the key to adding to the roux,” says Heath, to make a good sauce. “If the sauce is good and the patties are good.” And the seasoning… well, ”he laughs. “It’s going to be good!”

Locomotive

Makes four servings

1 pound of ground beef (80% lean, 20% fat)

2 finely chopped garlic cloves or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon of water

1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, such as grapeseed, avocado or canola oil

2 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup diced or minced yellow onion, preferably Maui or Vidalia

8 ounces of cremini or shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 1/2 to 2 cups beef broth or chicken broth

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon of soy sauce

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

To serve: steamed white rice; 4 eggs, fried or too easy; chopped green onion

Combine in a medium bowl: ground beef, garlic, lightly beaten egg with 1 tbsp water, breadcrumbs, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Mix quickly with your hands until just combined, being careful not to over mix or the patties will be hard. Form four patties (1/2 inch thick). Place the patties on a plate and cover with plastic wrap; chill in the refrigerator 10-15 minutes.

Heat vegetable oil to coat the bottom of a large (12 inch) skillet or griddle over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the patties in a single layer, spacing them evenly. Cover with a lid and cook for three minutes. Remove the lid and turn the patties over, baking an additional four minutes, uncovered, until the edges are brown and crisp. Remove the patties to a plate to rest them.

Add the butter to the cooking juices; add onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, five to seven minutes, until tender. Sprinkle with flour and stir for a minute; lumps smooth out once you add broth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of broth, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a low boil and cook, stirring, until smooth and free of lumps. Taste and add more salt or pepper as needed. Reduce the heat to a boil; return the patties to the pan with the sauce. Fry the eggs. To serve, divide the rice among four plates, garnish each spoon with a patty and a fried egg and drizzle with the sauce. Garnish with green onion.

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