I mentioned before a trip I had taken with an awesome bunch of bloggers and food lovers to pursue culinary delights outside the city. We had so much fun the first time that we planned another food-filled adventure. This time our destination was Pampanga, a region known for its cuisine. After much emailing back and forth, we finally set off, all 20-plus of us ensconced in a mammoth bus we had hired from Gypsysoul’s (and incidentally C’s) company. We were literally like kids on a field trip!
Our main destination was Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung for lunch. They prepared a veritable feast! You can see a detailed menu here and here. I really enjoyed the appetizers, especially the crab fat sushi with kamias and the balo-balo (fermented rice) wrapped in mustard greens. Another favorite was the dessert, a small ball each of ube jalaya (purple yam jam) and macapuno (young sweet coconut), and a little square of kamote (yellow yam) resting on a silken blanket of sweetened, reduced carabao’s (domestic water buffalo) milk. So amazingly good and a perfect example of showcasing simple, but quality, ingredients and their naturally fine flavors.
A very pleasant surprise for me though came during the main course, when I was tearing through a grilled quail (while trying to maintain some level of finesse). They served it with two sauces, both made in-house: a deeply aromatic vinegar and XO chili sauce. Dubbed Xtra Ordinary sauce by its makers, it sure got my number! I was under its spell, piling it on my quail like it was nobody’s business. Thank goodness they sold it there (although they also can be found in groceries) because I was not leaving without a bottle! It’s made with smoked chili peppers, Chinese ham, and dried shrimps (and other secret stuff I’m sure!). It’s one of those condiments that can make you eat five times as much as you normally would. Super powers I tell you.
As always, when I’ve got a new food product to play around with, my mind races with ways to use it. In truth, it needn’t have raced at all. Because I can put it on practically anything. Even pizza! That being said, there was a dish that had been taking shape in my mind and I decided to put an XO stamp on it. I had seen a “stuffed” trout in Donna Hay Magazine’s issue #30 (ok, last Donna Hay recipe for awhile…I have other cookbooks, I swear!) and I wanted to try something like it. Instead of a stuffed whole fish, you use two fillets and place the filling in the middle, and tie it up with butcher’s string (like a roast). I had been thinking of a caramelized onion stuffing and now I decided to spike it with the XO sauce. I used cobbler fillet instead of trout, and, to put my own personal stamp on it, I wrapped the fish in bacon :)
XO Onion Stuffed Cobbler
(inspired by the Almond Trout in Donna Hay Magazine’s issue 30, and by Claude Tayag’s deliciously addicting XO sauce)
- 2 cobbler or dory fillets (the biggest they have)
- 6-7 strips of bacon or pancetta
- 4 medium onions, sliced (for stuffing)
- 1-2 medium onions, sliced (for pan)
- 2 teaspoons Claude 9 XO chili sauce
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Olive oil
- Prepare your pan. Scatter the 2 sliced onions in your baking pan and drizzle with olive oil.
- Prepare your stuffing. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and toss in the 4 sliced onions. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring so as not to burn them, until wilted. Add XO sauce. Start with 1 teaspoon and work your way up until you like the heat level. Season with cracked black pepper and salt (if needed). Cook until soft, caramelized and golden. Let cool.
- Lay bacon or pancetta over the onions in your pan. Place one fillet over the bacon/pancetta, squarely in the middle.
- Spoon caramelized onion mixture (make sure you cool the onion mixture first) on top on the fillet and top with the second fillet.
- Fold bacon/pancetta over second fillet and wrap tight.
- Tie the “package” with butcher’s string.
- Place in a 200C (390F) oven for about 35 minutes or until fish is cooked through and bacon is toasty.
I love the way this brings both C’s love for fish and my love for bacon together, bound by our common enthusiasm for all things spicy. Wait. Did I just use my relationship with my husband as a rationalization for adding bacon to this dish? No matter…It was good and that’s what counts! The stuffing was fantastic, the spiciness of the XO sauce balanced by the sweetness of the onions. I have to say, in all my excitement over the XO sauce, I may have added more than 2 teaspoons. It was quite spicy…ok by me, but I will definitely add less if I’m making this for guests.
The XO sauce it taking a breather in the fridge right now. I’m dying to take it out for a spin again. So here are some future uses:
- In my tuna sandwich
- In a salad dressing
- On burgers
- With dim sum (this is like that chili garlic sauce they serve with dim sum…only better)
- Drizzled on bangus (milkfish) and baked
- To flavor my mayo!
- To make chili chicken like the one I had in Boracay
- Added to Binagoongan (a Filipino dish of pork in shrimp paste)
- As a rub for grilled steaks
- A little bit sauteed with kani and garlic for a great appetizer, served with melba toast
- To add to my angulas (little eels, typical Spanish appetizer)
- In a veggie stir-fry
- With cream cheese
Ok, I’ll stop now.
You can read all about the belly-busting time we had in Pampanga here:
Our Awsome Planet