The Beachbum always orders Rumaki at Polynesian restaurants, because no matter how many guests at his table, he invariably gets the dish to himself. People with high cholesterol, vegetarians, and calorie-counters all recoil like vampires exposed to sunlight when they discover that Rumaki consists of water chestnut and chicken liver wrapped in bacon, skewered and fried to a crisp. But it’s the perfect companion for heavy-bodied rum drinks like the Zombie or Navy Grog, and as such it enjoyed a 25-year vogue as the most popular faux-Polynesian appetizer. So popular, in fact, that in 1958 General Foods marketed a canned “Numaki” liver-and-chestnut canapé spread (ad pictured above).
It turns out that we are not alone in our love for Rumaki. Michael Sills, M.D., of Dallas, Texas, is also a fan. Here’s the kicker: Dr. Sills is a cardiologist. He’s also a gourmet cook, so for a recent Tiki-themed dinner party he decided to experiment with a haute cuisine version of Rumaki.
He started with the notion of scallop rumaki with foie gras in place of chicken liver. “Trying to get the bacon and foie gras to cook together proved too difficult,” he told the Bum. “That, and the Painkillers we were drinking while we were testing!” The doctor switched to a deconstructed version: bacon-wrapped scallop topped with a piece of foie gras.
The improvisation was a success: “The dinner turned out great,” reports Dr. Sills, who also served tuna poke, beef satay with papaya salsa and coconut rice, and Mai Tai Pie from the Bum’s Taboo Table. “We all wore leis and my wife gave everyone Tiki mugs as a party favor.”
The doctor was kind enough to share his Rumaki-inspired recipe with us. Ingredients: 8 scallops, 8 pieces of apple-smoked bacon (avoid commercially produced as it contains too much water) sliced very thinly, 1/2 pound foie gras cut into 1-2 inch pieces, and pineapple slices. Marinade ingredients: 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup sake, 1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar, 3 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger, 1 tablespoon yuzu vinegar, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. Directions: Marinate scallops for ½ hour. Wrap scallops with thin-cut bacon and place a toothpick through both to secure. Heat high-temperature oil (canola or grapeseed) at a depth of 1-1 1/2 inches to 350 degrees. Carefully place scallops into oil for about 6 minutes per side, or until there’s a nice brown color to the scallop and the bacon is cooked. While scallops are cooking, heat another saucepan to medium high heat and sear the foie gras for 30 seconds per side (use the pan dry!). Pour out all the oil from the foie gras and place reserved marinade in the saucepan. Whisk in cornstarch over high heat until sauce thickens and boils, about 3 minutes. Remove sauce from heat. Assemble the scallops on top of pineapple slices, and top with foie gras and reduced marinade.
And to complete the dish, Dr. Sills prescribes a “Lipitor garnish on the side.”