12 November 2007

Online Green Grocers

Some time back, Chubby Hubby had posted a shout-out calling for people who wanted to be the first to try new things in the food scene. I didn't even have time to think before I found myself composing an email to him voluntering myself for it.

Then last month, I received a very exciting email followed by 3 $50 vouchers to spend at Greengrocer. Within minutes of opening my mail, I went online to browse through the online grocery store. And within seconds, I was sending the link to a couple of my closer friends who would understand that I get easily excited by good quality tinned crabmeat (think of all the effort and time saved), fresh oysters, frozen scallops (I know, I know, but where else for the good stuff with roe?), veal bones, lamb shoulder...... you get the drift.

As there was a $30 delivery charge for purchases below $150, I had to use up all the credits at once. So I planned for a big, indulgent dinner and what better day than my dad's birthday? Being a big fan of seafood and red meat, choosing what to buy for my dad should have been pretty easy but it wasn't as there was too much variety!

One of the easier choices though was the oyster. I went straight for the largest - 105mm, which was really huge. I forgot that I had greedily ordered 2 dozen, so when the package arrived with ice-packs and all, I had to struggle for a while, making space in the fridge and making sure every single one of them fit into the chiller.

I bought an oyster knife from pantry magic just for the occasion, did my fair bit of research on the best way to shuck an oyster, then passed on the knowledge AND the oyster knife to my brother to work through all 24 oysters. So that part was easy.

Initially, he took a fair amount of time shucking just one oyster but slowly got the hang of it and managed the rest with little mess. He got increasingly excited the quicker he pried open each oyster, declaring that we had to have an oyster party just for the cousins whom we could picture enjoying every minute shucking the oysters to unveil each glorious jewel.

I had planned for the oysters to be done 4 ways. One was served neat, with nothing but its own creamy juices and the taste of the sea. Two were served with lime granita, that was time consuming but incredibly easy to make and yielded amazing results. I got this idea from Anderson Ho's Menu Degustation and it has officially become my favourite way of eating fresh oysters.

The ultimate for me used to be a Virgin Mary Oyster Shooter (pictured above in foreground) - a combination of tomato juice, tabasco sauce, worcesterchire sauce, lemon juice and salt. But the Kalamansi lime granita was sweet, tangy and tres refreshing. When paired with the plump, creamy oyster, it was a wonderful harmony of flavours and textures.

I decided to have deep-fried oysters as well, even though I'm usually averse to deep-frying, not just because it makes my entire kitchen slippery as hell, but also because it wastes a ton of oil. But I decided I need more diversity and smoking my own oysters would have to be a whole new project for another time. Flipping through The Cook's Book, I spotted a Japanese Beer Batter from Hisayuki Takeuchui, that looked perfect for the job. The recipe was for prawn tempura, but it looked like it could be easily used for oysters too. The batter was simple enough and just needed a Japanese beer, such as Asahi, an egg and a little sifted flour.

My brother, not a big fan of raw oysters, understandably enjoyed this the most. I sprinkled a little of Tetsuya's Truffle Salt that I got from
Culina after comtemplating using matcha salt instead. The oysters were cooked just long enough to still be soft under the light and crisp batter. I didn't need to time the deep-frying as once the batter started to brown, the oysters were just about done. It did not shrivel down into miniscule pieces of overcooked oysters encased in a crisp brown shell, and instead remained succulent beneath the fried batter where there was a perceptible presence of fermentation and yeast.

Although you think I would have learnt my lesson by now, after the many dinners I've hosted, I still have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to planning for them. For example, I had not decided what the exact menu would be on the day of the dinner itself. I just knew my fridge was well stocked with exciting ingredients for me to play around with.

One of which was the tinned crabmeat. Okay, I can already hear some of you muttering words of disagreement. How could I even stoop so low as to resort to canned crabmeat? That'd be like saying that canned salmon is as good as the real stuff. But have you ever tried killing your own crab, steaming it and extracting the flesh? It takes too much time, effort and needs more than a pair of hands. Plus, I NEEDED to spend that $150 at GreenGrocer anyway.

When the crab cakes were put together in a flash and left to sit in the fridge until it was ready to be deep-fried and served, I couldn't stop patting myself on the back for the decision well made. The crabmeat may not have been the freshest, but these were decent looking chunks of crab claw meat that were sufficient for the crabcakes.

I referred to Chubby Hubby's recent post on crab cakes, for the recipe by Teage Ezard in Lotus. It was a sound recipe, except I made extra-large ones for each of us and dipped them in flour, egg and panko crumbs before deep-frying for that extra crunch. He was right when he said that they compact and firm like Thai Fishcakes. I would actually prefer something more fluffy and may tweak the recipe a little in future. Still, served with an avocado sauce made from avocado puree, yogurt and lemon juice, the huge crab cakes were very satisfying.

I served the crab cakes with a pair of scallops. One was simply wrapped in bacon before being pan-fried, while the other was seared and placed on a spoonful of homemade onion jam. Scallops are probably the simplest dishes to prepare, easy to perfect with just some careful watching over. Now if only we could get some proper, fresh scallops. A colleague shared with me how she tried fresh scallops at a discreet Japanese eatery at one of the coasts along Australia (Melbourne?) and never looked back.

The last exciting item of the day was the wagyu beef, cubed. When I saw the beautiful marbling I was enthralled and couldn't stop thinking of what to do with it. The fastest way, of course, to find for a recipe involving any random ingredient you have, is to search for it on the internet. For this, I always consult Epicurious not just because it is easy to navigate but also because they have priceless reviews from other users who have tried the recipe before. I can then gauge how much risk I would be taking by using the recipe.

I thought I would take advantage of their cube-shape to make baby kebabs. So the
Grilled Steak Kebabs with Orange and Hoisin Glaze from Epicurious really came in handy. I simply replaced the sliced oranges with halved kumquats, and replaced the frozen orange concentrate with some simmered orange juice. The ridiculously simple marinade complemented the deliciously fatty beef cubes and the wonderful meaty smell hung in the air long after dinner. Reminiscing about that smell, I think it's something I actually wouldn't mind having in my home all the time.

My family still talks about THOSE oysters. They were tremendously good and unbelievably reasonable, so much so that we're thinking of getting another batch to share with our relatives for Christmas. And for that, I doubt $150 worth of oysters would be sufficient. My cousins will definitely have a ball of a time shucking their own oysters. The only problem is that they don't deliver on weekends, so if our Christmas gathering falls on a weekend I'm going to have to figure out how to stuff 100 oysters into my tiny fridge and keep them alive for 2 whole days!

Lime Granita
Adapted from Anderson Ho's Menu Degustation

150ml water
75g sugar
150ml Kalamansi Lime Juice


Add sugar to boiling water and stir until sugar dissolves then leave to cool to room temperature.

Add 150ml of sugar syrup to lime juice, stir and pour into a shallow dish (I used a shallow Pyrex glass dish).
Place in freezer, scraping the surface every hour until a homogeneously fluffy consistency is achieved. (Allow at least 3 rounds of fluffing for best results)


daphne said...

u r a lucky girl (n your family as well!). I will be just as excited with those oysters!!! yum!

S- said...

What a delicious feast! I love oysters and yours sound amazing!

the hungry cow said...

What a coincidence! I was just browsing greengrocer after learning about it from makansutra forum. Looks like a great meal you've put together and congrats on winning those vouchers!

Anonymous said...

ㅜㅜ I won't be there to try the fried oysters~! Me wants... I miss you guys~!

Esther said...

What a treat! And wonderful pics and writing :)

Anonymous said...

Daphne> I know I am blessed :) Those oysters were really yum!

S> They were! I found out they were from New Zealand, if that helps in any of your future purchases.

THC> I hope you try the oysters then!

Duckie> I think we've changed our mind to a roast, so we'll probably have one just among the cousins! We'll wait till you come back! =)

Esther> Thanks!