October 11, 2010
For years I have been pining for XO sauce. I was given a jar several years ago and at the time I thought it was some type of chili sauce, and searches for a recipe proved fruitless. That was because it was XO sauce. Mike and I used it sparingly, portioning it out as though it were flakes of gold, watching one another like hawks to ensure that neither took more than his or her fair share. If you think I’m exaggerating that’s because you’ve never met us. The jar was eventually scraped clean and the sauce lived on in our hearts and taste memory.
Last week I made XO sauce* and I want to share the love with you. I am aware that this is supposedly a blog on clean eating. And I realize that this is almost as dirty as a recipe can get as it calls for one and a half cups of oil. Bear with me, because XO sauce is fabulous. It makes clean eating, yes, a little dirty. It’s good on almost anything. It adds heat and funk and savour to the most unwitting boiled egg or uninspired steamed greens. A little goes a long way and will last in your fridge for months, if you don’t end up giving it all away. So here it is, from me to you with love.
Makes about 2 cups
2 ounces dried scallops
2 ounces dried shrimp
heaping half cup of peeled garlic cloves
1/2 cup sliced and peeled ginger
1 Oyama pork chop, removed from bone and roughly chopped, or 1 cup of salt cured ham
1 1/2 cups peanut or grape seed oil, divided
1/4 cup chili flakes
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped raw cane sugar (from a block)
Place dried scallops and shrimp in a small bowl and cover with super hot tap water. Set aside. Put the garlic cloves and sliced ginger into your food processor and buzz into a fine chop and then scrape into a bowl. Drain the dried seafood, discard the stinky water, buzz up finely and then scrape over top of the minced garlic and ginger. Add the chopped pork chop or ham to your food processor and, you guessed it, whir that into fine bits. Meanwhile, heat half a cup of oil in a large, wide frying pan over medium heat and add the blitzed pork or ham. Crisp it up in the hot oil, it will take about five minutes, maybe a bit longer. Add the chili flakes and continue to cook. This pan full of spicy pork will be foaming and fuming beautifully. Reduce heat to as low as possible and add the dried seafood, garlic and ginger. Okay, wow. The smell is instant – powerful and amazing and reeking and almost offensive. YUM. Continue to roast in pan for about one hour, stirring here and there. Ensure that it is not sticking to the bottom of pan, or getting too dark. Add a little more oil if necessary during cooking. Once you deem it done, and the sauce is a rich, foxy red-brown, remove from heat and let cool. When it’s cool enough to taste, stir in the coarse sea salt and raw sugar. Add the remaining one cup of oil, you made not need to add all of it, though you want enough to saturate. I think, when I have the opportunity to make this again, that I will tweak the recipe a bit more. I’m considering adding half a cup of shallots with the garlic and ginger, and maybe more pork and less seafood. But that won’t be for a while. I think I have enough XO to get us through the winter.
* I was inspired by XO recipes from Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking and Momofuku