Season’s greetings from “Pinchy”, the Christmas crayfish

It arrived on Christmas eve in a tightly sealed styrofoam box.

My scissors sliced through the billowing plastic and industrial strength tape surrounding the container.

I tentatively lifted the lid – but only a little – and promptly dropped it back down again. I had seen nothing.

I called my mum over to help.

We both glimpsed cautiously into the box when suddenly, she let out a small yelp of surprise.

I had received a text message, which caused a loud, sudden buzz to reverberate across the counter top. We both giggled ferociously.

Our laughter gave us the courage to throw the lid off, pull back the sheet filled with melted ice and uncover the greatly anticipated star of our Christmas – Christmas lunch, that is: a brilliantly orange and very much cooked crayfish.

I can’t explain the irrational fear I felt when first attempting to open the box and it doesn’t make sense to me why I chicken out at handling a once-living creature that still looks like an animal (spit roasts are a prime case in point). Whatever the reason, I couldn’t bring myself to drive a knife through the crayfish’s head to split it open so I asked Andrew to do it for me.

Being the endearing soul he is, he promptly named our little buddy “Pinchy”, before cracking open its head.

"I shall name him Pinchy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Pinchy."  Photo: Tao Lin

“I shall name him Pinchy and he shall be mine and he shall be my Pinchy.”
Photo: Tao Lin

Once he cracked open the crayfish, Andrew removed the mustard-coloured liver and some other soft gooey stuff before I brushed over the flesh with a mix of melted butter, a chopped red chilli, crushed garlic and grated zest of a lime (recipe by Nadia Lim). It then went onto a heated pan to grill, flesh-side down, for a couple of minutes before serving.

It was a surprise for my dad, who loves shellfish, and part of my Christmas gift to him. It was a nice feeling seeing his joy from something that is so basic and his enthusiasm in encouraging us all to enjoy the dish with him.

I hope everyone’s had such warm moments this festive season and a fabulously happy holiday!

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Righting past wrongs

When I was in high school, I was inspired to make cordon bleu. Escaped filling, pink chicken, an epic fail.

I never ventured near the thing again until yesterday, after deciding my deadly cordon bleu trial of past was probably long enough ago for me to safely try it again.

It’s not hard to find a cordon bleu recipe online but after yesterday’s success, it’s become one of the few things I’ve made so far that I am confident enough to replicate without searching up a recipe. The one that I did end up following came from allrecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-cordon-bleu-i/

Instead of using bread crumbs though, I adopted my little alternative from when I made crispy oven baked chicken wings and used crushed cornflakes instead. I had some egg white left over from a chilli lime aioli I was making (which turned out more like a honey mustard mayo, but more on that in a later post), and so after I had rolled up everything in the chicken and skewered it together, I rolled the meaty package in some flour, then in the egg whites and then in the cornflakes.

I also used mozzarella instead of Swiss, only because I had mozzarella already and didn’t want to waste it. Instead of ham, I used bacon.

To accompany the chicken, I also roasted some potatoes and my favourite type of sausage, chorizo. I did intend on making a gravy with some chicken stock but I ran out of time and thought it would be fine without a sauce, which it was.

It was sometime before placing the chicken in the oven that I realised a huge mistake I had made in my first cordon bleu attempt: I had tried to cook it on the frying pan. How embarrassing!

At the same time, I was making a spaghetti frutti di mare for my parents, which also turned out amazing thanks to a fantastic recipe. I did take some photos but none turned out good enough to post up, however DO check out the recipe and try it out – you will not regret it if you’re a seafood lover. Just a quick note: I didn’t use clam or fish stock as the recipe called for. I had some chicken stock already so I just used that (cue heavy intake of breath from food snobs everywhere). I didn’t have actual clams either – the seafood I used were mussels, squid and prawns. It was really, incredibly easy to make as well; definitely another keeper, hurray!

Crispy cordon bleu with roasted potatoes and chorizo. Photo: Tao Lin

Crispy cordon bleu with roasted potatoes and chorizo. Photo: Tao Lin

 

 

Second go at oven-baked snapper

One of the snapper I got last weekend has finally been put through the oven and consumed, dressed in dashes of soy sauce and sesame oil, sprinkled with garlic, ginger and green onion and topped with fresh slices of lemon.

I’m not a huge consumer of seafood and when I cooked my first snapper fillets last weekend, I didn’t really know when it was actually cooked. I’m not sure how the meat is meant to taste when it’s cooked right, when it’s undercooked and when it’s overcooked, but I think essentially, it’s done right when the flesh is opaque and flakes away when tested with a fork. Last time I kept them in the oven for about 15 minutes but this time, I checked them regularly from around the 10 minute mark to make sure I didn’t ruin the fish by overcooking it.

Believe it or not, I still have one more whole snapper to cook. Perhaps a stray away from Asian flavours is due?