Welcome to the recession folks. That means all of us should be mindful of how we spend our money, and that means for some of us a lot less dining out.
But eating at home doesn’t have to be boring. You don’t even have to sacrifice on quality, “Luxury” ingredients that would otherwise cost you an arm and a leg at a restaurant to eat. You just need to think about buying in bulk and doing a lot of meal planning.
One of my favorite things to eat is jumbo sea scallops. At a decent restaurant, particularly if they are using high-quality dry pack scallops, you can expect to pay between $18.00 and up for an entree with five or six of these guys in them. At a quality fishmonger fresh dry pack sea scallops command a hefty price.
But COSTCO has them frozen, and if you buy a large bag of them the price becomes much more economical per portion. You can eat them over a couple of weeks or even longer, if you have the ability to re-seal the bag with a home vacuum sealer. I also like COSTCO’s shrimp, they are of exceptionally high quality for frozen product, and when COSTCO has their “Seafood Roadshow” events every month, they are even cheaper than the regular discounted COSTCO price.
Oyster Sauce Glazed Pan-Seared Sea Scallops with Spicy XO Vegetables andBrown Rice.
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First, you’ll need a dozen frozen COSTCO sea scallops, which you will want to de-frost. One trick for de-frosting these guys is if you have a cast-iron skillet or griddle — just put them in that (with no burners going, just a cat iron pan with no heat applied) and in about a half an hour, they will completely defrost and be ready to cook. This is due to a nifty heat transference thermodynamics property of the cast iron which I won’t bore you with because I don’t have cool video segments like Alton Brown.
For this dish, you’ll need some specialty ingredients. Fortunately you can get all this stuff mail order if you don’t have Asian groceries locally.
The first is XO Sauce. There are a bunch of these on the market, but I happen to like the one made by Lee Kum Kee. Now, as I understand it, you can actually make this stuff, but Lee Kum Kee is the one that a lot of top Chinese restaurants use, if they aren’t using their own formula. I was able to find it online for $8 a 4 ounce jar. You’ll probably do better locally if you have Asian markets.
I have been told that it is possible to make your own XO sauce if you experiment mixing soybean oil, dried shrimp, dried scallop, red chili pepper, shallot, garlic and salt, black pepper, adding cooked ham (Smithfield would work, but Chinese Jinhua ham even better), and food process the whole thing. I may just try doing this in a future post because it is a rather expensive condiment, but it’s an important component to the dish. If you really can’t find this stuff, use Chili Paste and Finely minced Shallots and Minced Garlic. It won’t taste the same but the dish won’t suck either.
The next two ingredients are easier to find — Oyster Sauce and Chinese Rice Cooking Wine (Shaoxing). Now, Oyster Sauce is an extremely important and very common condiment used in just about every form of Asian cooking, and there are a lot of brands out there, and they come from different countries. The problem is that a lot of them are really low quality. Again, I’m partial to Lee Kum Kee’s premium oyster sauce, because its actually made with oyster extract whereas some of the other ones out there use a lot of artificial crap. Lee Kum Kee also does “Panda” brand sauce but I like their “Premium” one better. If you can’t find the Shaoxing, an inexpensive cooking sherry would do fine.
Lee Kum Kee Oyster Sauce. The Best.
Pour out a few tablespoons of the oyster sauce into a cup, and add a shot of rice cooking wine. Optionally, add a little bit of your XO sauce. Mix it up good.
In a non-stick cooking pan, pour in a small amount of cooking oil, heat the pan so the oil gets hot. Cook the scallops for 3 minutes on high heat on each side, basting with the oyster sauce mixture as you go. Set aside.
For the fried rice portion I used this stuff from Indonesia called Nasi Kuning. It’s basically just Coconut Milk seasoned with Tumeric, Shallots and Lemongrass. They got all sorts of fried rice seasoning pastes at Asian markets, you don’t have to use this one.
For the fried rice, we used already cooked, day old refrigerated brown rice. This is a brown jasmine. Just fry it up in a little bit of oil, with a tablespoon or two of the seasoning paste of your choice, or even just a little bit of soy sauce would be fine.
Next, stir fry your choice of vegetables. Here we’ve got some green beans, red and yellow peppers, carrots, zucchini and some red onion, which we’ve cut into julienne strips. We stir fried this in a little bit of oil, and flavored with about 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, some shaoxing wine, chopped garlic, and two heaping tablespoons of the XO sauce. I did this to taste, I didn’t measure anything exactly.
Oyster Sauce-Glazed Pan Seared Scallops with Stir-Fried Vegetables in Spicy XO Sauce, Nasi Kuning Brown Fried Rice.