Anne Burrell and Fish Sauce, its about going Asian, Baby…

After a winter of gorging myself with comfort foods I discovered this weekend, after putting on a pair of shorts, that I have done considerable damage to my body. At first I was stunned, surprised really that I looked pregnant and as if I had stuffed cotton in my mouth. This at first was beyond my comprehension. Something had to be dreadfully wrong with my mirrors. Could I really be this big? No! There was no way. My denial so rich I even wondered for a moment if I was indeed pregnant and some eighth wonder of the world. No I told myself, “You don’t have a uterus”   –I sat down in my living room and contemplated and after a series of long disparaging sighs, a glass of wine and little hardcore honesty, I finally admitted that the fat person I saw in my bathroom mirror, who I told myself all winter was my fat roommate, was not my fat roommate, it was me. I don’t have a roommate, I never did.

I decided to take action

Every spring I go through this, however unlike prior springs when I would try all kinds of popular diets and walk for miles, this spring I decided to go Asian.  Most of the Asian recipes I have looked at are low in fat, spicy, high in protein and vegetables. Plus not to generalize, I don’t know many overweight Asian people, but I am sure they exist and have my diet.  When I say Asian food, I’m not talking about the deep-fried stuff. Mostly stir fry stuff. I am a novice when it comes to Asian Cuisine and I am on a mission to know more.  But before I go on, I want to make it clear that I am not putting down overweight people, I am putting down myself for not being more careful this winter, but, so what?  I had fun! I loved eating that wheel of Brie in January, and okay, so big deal I braised a pork belly in February, lock me up.  Whatever, I’m still here!   –Look,  if one is overweight so what? Flaunt it, enjoy your food, however, if there is a health issue or you fear one coming on, take a break from you decadent eating habits and find new ways to eat better. For me, as the saying goes, I am not getting any younger and the devouring of bread, cheese, liver pates and butter like some kind of wild untamed beast as I did all winter is simply not healthy. It time for me to tame the fat craving beast that lives inside of me.  (Until next December, January, February and March)

I live near an Asian Market and I’ve spent the last few days talking to other shoppers and asking advice, there was a language barrier, but that made it all the more fun, I made new friends and new friends mean being invited to people’s homes for dinner and everyone knows I never say no to a dinner invitation.

My goal this week is to properly prepare my kitchen for the Asian Cooking I plan on doing this spring and summer all in hopes of taking off a few pounds. I bought Oyster Sauce, Fish Sauce, Sambal Oelek, Wasabi Oil, Thai Hot Peppers, Thai Basil, Lime Leaves, Sesame Seed oil, raw cashews and almonds and Hoisin Sauce. These items were surprisingly inexpensive in comparison to other supermarket chains.

Sunday I made Asian Braised Pork that I saw on the Food Channel Network a while ago, it was made by my favorite Food Network Star and idol Anne Burrell. I can’t express enough how much I LOVE Anne Burrell, she cooks with utter passion and gusto and I love when she bites into food and says her little witty sayings and I adore how she personifies food and speaks to it as if it’s a dear friend.  I speak to my food as well, and when watching Ms. Burrell talk to her food, it makes me feel a little less crazy, if that is at all possible. And also, who wouldn’t want to have white, wavy frenzied hair like hers? She’s like some wild food scientist.  She’s like some female version of Einstein! Personally, I think she’s a food genius.  I would love to cook and eat with her, that my friends, would be beyond a dream come true for me.

Before I tell you about Ms. Burrell’s braised pork shoulder recipe, I want you to know I made this as my last animal fat hurrah before my fatless spring and summer.

Okay, so, take a pork shoulder and slice it into thick steaks, fry in canola oil in an enamel pot or Dutch oven until both sides are brown. Take the pork out, add minced ginger, garlic, Sambal Oelek and cook for a few moments. Put the Pork back into the pan, next add some Oyster Sauce, Brown Sugar, Soy Sauce, Orange peel and juice from one Orange, Chicken Stock, Star Anise and Rice Wine Vinegar and cover and let it braise for a few hours, turning  the pork after one hour.  The gorgeous Ms. Burrell served this with thinly sliced cucumbers and Daikon that she marinated in Rice Wine Vinegar and I think sugar.  I loved this dish, however it was WAY too salty, so I would lighten up on the Soy Sauce, use unsalted Chicken Stock and be careful with the Oyster Sauce.

Last night I started my low-fat, high protein and vegetable diet and made a spicy Thai Chicken. Everything for this AWESOME dish can be bought at most Asian Markets.  — In a food processor, I combined lemongrass (bulbs), shallots, garlic and Thai Bird chilies and processed it all into a paste. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole I heated some canola oil and added the paste and cooked it over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant and just beginning to brown. I added pieces of thinly sliced chicken breast and cooked it quickly and then I added lime juice, lime leaves, scallions, dill and basil.  —-It was magnificent.  Hellooooooooooo!!!  —I never cooked with lime leaves before so it made making this dish extra exciting for me. Lime leaves cost a buck and the Thai Bird Chilies were two bucks and I got a huge container of them.  I love a bargain, especially when it comes to food.

For lunch today, I made Chicken with Cashews, I diced up three celery stalks and cut a single chicken breast into bite size chunks. I heated sesame seed oil (a small amount) and I added to the hot oil, grated ginger and garlic and Sambal Oelek and cooked it all until the pan was coated and starting to brown.  I then added the chicken until it was tender and coated with the spicy garlic-ginger goodness. I then added the cashews. I then added a few shots of fish sauce (see my fish sauce note below) Oyster Sauce, Soy Sauce, Rice Vinegar and a half cup of water to get the brown and excellent crusty stuff off the bottom of the pan.  I dumped it in a bowl and chowed-down and let me tell you, it was another, awesome, low-fat healthy spicy meal.

A note on fish sauce:  It smells so horribly bad that you will be reluctant to use it. You will feel this way especially when you add it to your pan of cooking food for I guarantee a gush of foul-smelling steam will come your way and you will be incredibly repulsed, but FEAR NOT the smell cooks off quickly and when you eat your meal there is no evidence of the smell.   —-YOU WILL NOT taste it. Fish Sauce gives food a wonderful depth of flavor, not fishy (of course if you overdo it, you will taste it) use often when cooking, but when using it, add it judiciously (it is also salty) and PS almost all your favorite Chinese food dishes have fish sauce in it.  Deal.


About johncpicardi

Welcome to my blog. I am the author of the novel Oliver Pepper's Pickle and the published plays The Sweepers and Seven Rabbits on a Pole, both plays have been produced off Broadway and around the US. I am a graduate of Johnson & Wales University where I majored in Culinary arts. I have a BA from The University of Massachusetts and an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University. This blog is about food and food memories and every other fantastic and scrumptious thing to do with it. My appetite and passion for food is large and runs deep, sometimes its indulgent and wild and other times wholesome and simple, often humorous and always immeasurable. I grew up outside of Boston and spent many hours of my childhood in front of the TV watching Graham Kerr (The Galloping Gourmet) and Julia Child prepare all kinds of luscious meals that would make my mouth water. Other days I’d follow my mother and two grandmothers around their simple, tidy kitchens as they busily prepared hearty fragrant meals, hand-cut pastas, preserved fruits and vegetables, baked yeasty breads, spicy cookies and frosted lopsided cakes. I was there by their side asking questions and helping where needed and there were plenty of times I was ordered to leave if I was in their way. It was a given that by the time I graduated High School I would be going off to Johnson & Wales University to study Culinary Arts. Those years were fine and good. I loved the hands on creativeness of cooking whether it be the simple lesson of washing a sink full of colorful salad greens, trussing a chicken or peeling a gorgeous carrot or the complicated lessons of making a French Country Pate or Julia Child’s Cassoulet or making Brioche, it all thrilled me and my dream had arrived!
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2 Responses to Anne Burrell and Fish Sauce, its about going Asian, Baby…

  1. gloria coletti says:

    Hey John, food sounds so good. Save me some, please. Love mom


  2. HAHAHA!!! falling off my chair. I can relate to all of this… I’m on a reducing regime myself from the winter’s shameless porking out. I’ve gained a roommate, too! Thanks for the recipes… they sound fantastic.


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