Monday, July 11, 2011

How to Host an Hawaiian Luau

We just had a luau this past weekend. This is definitely one of our favorite party themes! You can’t help but feel relaxed while you’re sipping tropical drinks and listening to Hawaiian tunes. This kind of party is perfect for the summer months, when your guests can mingle outside by the pool, as well as indoors.

My sons really got into this party. Here's my oldest, the week before the luau:

Luaus are easy to host. Here's what I recommend you do:

Create an airline boarding pass with your luau as the destination. Include your address, the “time of arrival” (when the party starts!), the date of the flight (or luau!), and list the first class perks (the main activities for the luau). You can also find some really cute luau invitations on Evite and other electronic invitation websites.

Your invitations should encourage guests to come dressed in Hawaiian attire. That includes grass skirts and bikini tops, hibiscus hairpieces in ladies’ hair, leis, Hawaiian shirts, sarongs, muumuus, flower lei bracelets and ankle bracelets.

--Trash can sized-hula skirts to wrap around trash cans. Grass skirts for tables. You can buy both of these from party supply houses like Oriental Trading Company, as well as party and craft supply chains like Party City and Hobby Lobby, and discount stores like Dollar Tree.
--Hang garlands of hibiscus flowers to enhance the island feeling.
--Hang fishnets across ceilings and on walls.
--Use table cloths with tiki motifs, palm fronds or hibiscus designs. Fish nets also make ideal tablecloths for a luau.
--Tape paper or cloth hibiscus on beverage coolers and door frames, around windows, etc.
--Hang travel posters and post cards from Hawaii.
--Place bamboo tiki torches outdoors by your pool and/or patio. There’s usually quite a selection in the home and garden sections of department and discount stores.
--Create South Pacific-style flower arrangements with birds of paradise, ginger root, orchids and hibiscus—that’s if your party is going to be a little more formal than a less formal luau beach party.
--Hang a hammock out on the patio, back porch or between two trees.
--Put paper lanterns, strings of hibiscus-shaped or other party lights, and torches outside on your patio or by your pool (if a summer luau)—to create the ambiance of a night at the beach
--Scatter fresh orchids and either real or paper hibiscus flowers around your your house.
--Line table edges and countertop edges with imitation hula grass.
--Set out real surfboards around your home.
--Hang Hawaiian style straw hats and flip flops around your home.
--Fill large ceramic bowls and baskets with tropical fruits like papayas, coconuts, pineapples, mangos, bananas, kiwis, lemons, and limes—to have them on display and guests can snack on them too. If desired, drape or encircle bowls with flower leis.
--For a cute, practical touch: buy a hula skirt for your trash can. I bought one from Oriental Trading Company and it made a rather utilitarian object in the room—the trash can—look quite festive, and actually added to the décor!

Play Hawaiian tunes—Don Ho songs, and steel guitar and ukelele music.

--As your guests arrive, wish them Aloha, which means hello (as well as farewell) and place a flower lei around their necks. As the hostess, if you are going to be busy with last-minute food prep when guests arrive, designate a female to dress as a hula girl and greet guests as they arrive. I asked two daughters of a friend (age 10 and 18) to do this for me this past weekend, and they did wonderfully! I filled a tall wicker basket with about 120 leis, all in different colors and designs, so it was possible to try to color coordinate leis with what each guest was wearing.
--Have a sing-along of songs by Don Ho and other Hawaiian singers
--If the party takes place around a pool, include swimming as an activity.
--Hold a hula contest. Purchase inexpensive hula skirts from your favorite important store. Tie skirts around a few of the guests (be sure to include a few men), play recorded Hawaiian music, and see how well they can hula. Or, simply have a hula hoop contest and see who can do it the longest amount of time. Give out prizes for who can hula the longest without dropping their hula hoop…One way to do a hula hoop contest is to award the person with the longest time keeping the hoop spinning around the waist. Another way is to see who can spin the hula hoop around the neck, arms, legs and waist, with winners being those who can keep the hoop spinning for 15 seconds around each body part.
--Have a limbo contest. Although the limbo is more Carribean than Polynesian, many associate it with any kind of tropical party. You just need a long pole, ideally a long bamboo stick to keep with the tropical theme. Each guest bends backward at the waist, attempting to walk around the pool without touching it. Each time it gets lower until only one person can do it.
--Play “Pass the coconut.” With this game, the idea is to transfer a coconut down a line of people, without dropping it, held under the chin from person to person, without using your hands. If you drop the coconut, you’re out. The last player left is the winner. To prevent the coconut shell from rubbing your guests’ chins, lightly smooth it out with fine sandpaper before the party.
--Have a water balloon toss. Have your guests get in two-person teams. Partners/team members face each other in rows. Start out with team partners about 8 feet apart from each other as one partner tosses their water balloon to the other. After each toss, each team takes a step backward and the other partner tosses the balloon this team. If a team drops the water balloon and it breaks (which is sure to happen!), or if the partner does not catch the water balloon, that team is eliminated. Teams continue to step backward after each toss, getting further and further apart. Keep playing until only one team remains, and they are the winners.

As with so many casual party themes, the food for luaus is best served up buffet style. This past weekend we served Hawaiian cheeseballs for an appetizer in the family room, along with frozen Pina Coladas, Blue Hawaiians and Mai Tais (I used the frozen drink tubs) for the adults, and nonalcoholic Polynesian Punch for the kids. This was followed by the buffet meal of Teriyaki chicken kabobs, Pineapple and golden raisin rice salad, Fresh fruit kabobs on sticks (pineapple, mangos, papaya, strawberries, oranges, watermelon and honeydew or canteloupe chunks, kiwi), Aloha Sweet Potatoes, tossed green salad, Hawaiian Fruit Salad and a variety of tropical desserts. One of them was coconut crème brulee. The recipes are below:

Hawaiian Cheeseball

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 (8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained
¼ cup celery, sliced thinly
¼ cup red bell pepper, diced
½ cup yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
4 green onions, chopped finely
¾ cup chopped pecans

Mix all ingredients together except pecans. Put into refrigerator for about an hour to firm up. Then, form into a ball. Roll into chopped pecans so that the entire cheeseball is coated in nuts. Chill until serving time. Serve with crackers.

Polynesian Punch (nonalcoholic)

5 ½ cups (46-oz. can) pineapple juice concentrate
1 ½ cups (two 6-oz. cans) frozen orange juice concentrate
1 ½ cups (two 6-oz. cans) frozen lemonade concentrate
1 ½ cups (two 6-oz. cans) from limeade
1 ½ cups cold water
4 to 4 ½ quarts chilled carbonated water, ginger ale or lemon-lime soda

Combine all ingredients except carbonated beverage and ice. Mix well. Just before serving, add ice and carbonated beverage.

Teriyaki Chicken Kabobs

1/4 cup lemon or pineapple juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tsp. fresh garlic, finely minced
Optional: one can beer

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (20 oz.) can unsweetened pineapple chunks, drained

Prepare marinade: Combine lemon juice, vegetable oil, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, pepper, garlic and beer; stir in chicken chunks. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight to marinate, stirring occasionally.

About an hour before serving, remove chicken from marinade. Discard marinade. To assemble kabobs, alternately thread chicken and pineapple onto skewers. Place kabobs onto grill. Grill about15 to 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes. Makes enough for 8 large servings.

[Do-ahead tip: Whole marinated chicken breasts can be grilled on your outdoor grill the day before assembling them into kabobs. Once cooked, take grilled chicken breasts and cut into 1-inch cubes. Refrigerate until ready to thread onto kabob skewers. When you’re ready to serve them, take pineapple and chicken skewers and put on a griddle on low to heat and stay warm. Drizzle extra teriyaki sauce/marinade on skewers while they are warming. You can used bottled teriyaki sauce for this. I did my kabobs ahead of time like this and it was a wonderful time saver…and they would have never known they were cooked the day before!]

Here's a picture of our teriyaki kabobs. I found some really cute hibiscus skewers from Oriental Trading Company (only $8 for 144 of them!) to thread the chicken and pineapple on.

Aloha Sweet Potatoes

4 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all of the above and pour into buttered 1 ½ quart glass casserole dish.

Then, mix the following together until crumbly, and sprinkle on top of mashed sweet potato mixture:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup flaked coconut
1/3 cup butter, cold

Bake in 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until heated through. Makes about 20 servings. [Do ahead tip, you can make the mashed sweet potato mixture ahead of time and put into your baking dish. Add about 15 minutes to the baking time. You can make up the topping ahead of time too. After 30 minutes of baking, top with coconut topping. Let sit out at room temperature 5-10 minutes before serving.]

Hawaiian Fruit Salad

2 large cans pineapple chunks (in pineapple juice, and drained)
2 large cans Mandarin oranges (drained)
3 large bananas, (sprinkled with lemon juice and sliced)
3 kiwi, peeled and sliced
1 papaya or mango, peeled and sliced
1 ½ cups shredded coconut
2 cups miniature marshmallows
2 cups sour cream
½ tsp. nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in large bowl except nutmeg. Right before serving, Let chill 1-2 hours before serving. Sprinkle with freshly ground nutmeg just before serving.

South Pacific Rice Salad

12 cups cooked rice
3 cups green onions, thinly sliced
3 cups celery, thinly sliced
1 ½ cups chopped fresh parsley
2 cups raisins
2 (20 oz.) cans crushed, unsweetened pineapple, drained
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup pineapple juice
¼ cup lemon juice
½ cup soy sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the 6 cups of rice as directed on package (you will probably need to add about 12 cups of water and cook for 20-25 minutes in microwave or in covered pan over stovetop). When done cooking, fluff the rice with a fork and spread it over large baking sheets to cool. Then transfer the cooled rice to a large mixing bowl. Add the onions, celery, parsley, raisins and crushed pineapple. (The salad can be made a day in advance up to this point. Cover and refrigerate until ready to toss with the dressing. You can also make the dressing ahead of time and keep in covered container in the refrigerator.)

To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, pineapple juice, lemonjuice, and soy sauce in a bowl. Gradually add to the rice mixture, tossing to coat. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve chilled. Makes enough for 25 people.

Tropical Coconut Crème Brulee

3 cups heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup granulated sugar
12 large egg yolks
1 1/8 cups unsweetened powdered coconut milk
5 T. super-fine granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Scald the cream in a heavy, medium saucepan. Whisk ¾ cup sugar and the yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk the hot cream into the yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until the custard thickens, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes; do not boil. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the powdered coconut milk; stir until dissolved. Divide the custard among nine 2/3 cup ramekins. Place ramekins in a large baking pan, and fill hot water half-way up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the custards are set around the edges, around 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the custards from the water bath and cool overnight in refrigerator. Just before serving, sprinkle 1 to 2 tsp. of super-fine granulated sugar over each of the custards. Heat with a chef’s torch until the sugar carmelizes. Serve immediately.

If you are having a large group over, a luau is an easy meal that can be "potlucked." In addition to the foods I provided above, my guests also brought side dishes like fruit platters, veggies and dip trays, and desserts.

Well, that's about it for this post. So I'll just end by saying:

E ‘ai ka-kou (that’s the Hawaiian equivalent of bon appetit!)

1 comment:

  1. You think children don't notice, but there was a little boy who was thrilled at the trash cans being decorated with a grass skirt - those little touches are not overlooked! Had a blast!