In pursuit of XO - lence

my jar of home made XO sauce with a cheekily screen grabbed label  

Christmas is coming and the store cupboard needs stocking up,but what with?
I love it when I can easily make something at home and it turns out to be just as good or better than the more expensive manufactured brand. In this particular case a luxury item that saved me €15 or 12,50 British pounds sterling for a 220g jar!!!!
I’m aware not everyone has a bottle of this delicacy in their kitchens, and may not feel like investing in a whole bottle for an one-off recipe,but while you can pick up a bottle from any well-stocked posh ingredients or Asian aisle of your supermarket, making a good imitation at home is simple,and if you are  a saucepot like me save the pennies in your purse for another day, and for something that is less achievable. And it I hope it will be near-irresistable  for you to simply want the satisfaction of making sauces at home. Either way, I thought you may be interested to make this at home since it’s something that, once you´ve tasted it, will undoubtably become an item that is always in your fridge, not just for Christmas but for life.
What I am talking about is an iconic sauce hailing from Hong Kong, made from dried seafood (namely, dried shrimp and scallops, AKA “conpoy,”, salty Jinhua ham, shallots, garlic, chili, and oil. It may sound odd, but it is, in fact, epically delicious and an explosion of umami palatability that you’ll want to slather on literally anything and everything you can find.
 Stir fried seafood rice all the better for a dash of XO

XO is a spicy seafood sauce that makes everything taste better. Fact. It can be used as a rub or in a marinade, served on the side, or used within a recipe.You won’t yet find it widely available in supermarkets, although savvy shoppers may have spotted it in their local Chinese grocer. But, chefs  have awoken to its umami superpowers this year and through press are providing plenty of inspiration for how to use it. It can be stirred through rice, bound through noodles, flipped into stir fries, or smothered over meat,cut through potato salad or even used it to create a chinese bolognese.
 I was mystified as to how to pronounce the name when I first came across it but it turns out that it is named after the ‘XO’, or ‘Extra Old’ designation used to classify Cognac by age. Being able to afford fine Cognac has something of a cachet in certain Asian circles and adopting the two letters as a name was clearly a clever marketing ploy to underscore the expensive delicacies used in the making of this most prestigious of Asian condiments… 
No question, this sauce is a splurge on quality ingredients, and its glossy flavour can really transform a dish. When I set out to make my version, I decided that since I couldn´t source dried shrimp and scallop, here in the Algarve I'd desiccate the seafood myself. The process is simple, though somewhat time-consuming, and the results are quite exquisite (note that the seafood can be dried and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to a week in advance).I am sure like me once you´ve tapped into this unusual commodity you will be eating it in copious amounts.Bon appetit or as they say in Hong Kong qǐng màn yòng.
How to make home made authentic XO sauce  

180g medium sized raw prawn (about 9 headless before peeling)
180g fresh scallops (about 3)
4 tsp Flor de sal
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 inch fresh ginger,
2 whole serrano chiles, stemmed and seeded
4 ounces good quality air cured ham,prosciutto,jamon iberico
1 tbspdark brown sugar
1 cup peanut oil
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp black sesame oil

Peel the prawns, discarding their shells.
Using paper towels, blot the prawns and scallops until dry and tacky. Cut the prawns in half lengthwise, removing the dark blue vein down the back as you go. Slice the scallops horizontally so each is in 4 thin rounds.
Transfer the seafood to a small mixing bowl and, using your fingers, combine it very thoroughly with the salt.
Lay the sliced and salted seafood in a single layer on a large, clean kitchen towel and lay another one on top. Cover the top towel with a board and weight which combine to equal about 5 pounds (2.5 kg). Let the seafood press at room temperature for 3 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare a wire rack over a rimmed baking tray and cover it with a thin coating of vegetable oil.After the 3-hour drying period, move an oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 200 F. Lay the pressed seafood on the rack in a single layer. Place the seafood in the oven and prop the door ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon. Let the seafood dry for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The edges of the scallops will be slightly brown, and all of the seafood will be dry and leathery, but not stiff.

To make the sauce. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, mince the garlic and ginger until they stop whirling inside the machine. Add the chillies, prawns and scallops, ham, and sugar and process until very fine, running the machine for about 1 to 2 minutes and stopping to scrape down the edges of the bowl as needed.
Scrape the entire contents of the food processor bowl into a medium skillet, add the vegetable oil, and stir to combine. Place the pan over medium heat, and once the mixture starts to sizzle, lower the heat as needed to keep it bubbling, but not splattering. Stir it frequently, scraping up the solids from the bottom, until the sauce becomes very dark coffee brown all over, about 15 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir to cool slightly. Once the bubbles have subsided, add the soy sauce and sesame oil and stir to combine.
The sauce is ready to use right away, though it will become even better after you allow the flavours to meld for a day. Scrape the sauce into a container with a tight-fitting lid and let it sit at room temperature for 1 day before refrigerating. The sauce will keep at least 3 months refrigerated, and several months in the freezer.


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