Chinese Sausage Fried Cauliflower "Rice"

I gave a a little bit of thought into what the tattoo I was getting might look like when I hit 85 years old, then turned to the artist and told him to light me up.

I have several tattoos - some visible, some placed strategically - and they all mean something to me. My first was a right of passage, my most recent a visual expression of my love for my furkids. The second one, though, was to remind myself to seek balance. It is a pretty tattoo with pink cherry blossoms and a short phrase in Latin that reminds me that "what nourishes me also destroys me."

At some point, I believe even the most avid adventure seeker arrives at the conclusion that there really can be too much of a good thing. Some folks arrive at this point sooner than others. My food blogging has never been about "healthy eating" and diet-friendly recipes. I'd rather not eat cake altogether than make one sans white flour, sans sugar, sans flavor. In other words, there are days for eating cake (real cake) and days for not eating cake. Common sense helps us find the balance.

As I've watched my body change over the past five months since my surgery, I've watched my attitude towards incorporating healthier ingredients into my meals change ... thankfully for the better. It has not been easy getting to this point. There has been a lot of effort put into this transformation and the surgery was just the start. Now it's up to me to do what I can to keep myself on the path of healthy weight-loss.

Is it possible to eat healthy without sacrificing flavor? It's totally possible. I'm going to share one my favorite recipes from the Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes cookbook to prove it: Chinese Sausage Fried Rice. I've made this more than any other recipe in the book because it's just such a solid favorite of mine. I've never been able to make a really good-tasting fried rice at home ... until now.

Here's what I love about it:

  • The team at Lucky Peach is uber descriptive about the technique, not assuming you know what you probably do NOT know.
  • This dish involves mis en place which is my favorite way to cook a dish. Prep everything first, then ready, set, cook!
  • This is the first recipe I've come across that uncovers the secret behind those large, fluffy, tender pieces of scrambled egg you find in the best restaurant fried rice.

I make this fried rice a lot, usually two to three times a month, but when the craving hit me last week, I thought about replacing the traditional day-old white rice with "cauliflower rice" (cauliflower whizzed about in a food processor until it resembles bits the size of rice).

If we're being honest, the rice in fried rice is simply a vehicle for the sweet, salty, umami flavors that come from the sauce and "stuff" that are put into the rice. Cooked white rice is really quite bland and doesn't have much flavor (not to mention very little nutritional value), unlike brown rice or heirloom rices (like black "forbidden" or Carolina Gold). In the same way, cauliflower has a similarly understated flavor profile and works well as a transporter of other flavors. The rice in fried rice provides a textural element that I felt "riced cauliflower" could do as well.

The best part is that cauliflower happens to be a good source of protein, fiber, and vitamins C, K and B6. Those words are music to a bariatric surgical patient's ears.

And so I made it, and it was delicious, and I'm not sure I'll ever go back to white rice again. At least not for fried rice.

Obviously, please feel free to use regular white rice (or any rice you choose) when you make this, because it really is going to change your life regardless. It's just the best fried rice ever.

A couple things to note before I dive into the recipe: You'll want to cook the cauliflower before you begin the fried rice recipe. Leaving the cauliflower raw will make you feel like you're eating fried rice that has been made with uncooked rice. It's just way too much crunch. Also, you can replace the sweet Chinese sausage with bacon or pancetta, but if you can get your hands on it (Amazon, Asian markets), do give the Chinese sausage a try. It'ssooooooogoooooood.

And here's an updated photo for my friends cheering on my weigh-loss journey. I'm about 60 pounds down to date. I've got a long way to go, but it feels awesome to be headed in the right direction.

Marcello and Giada are wondering what I'm gazing wistfully at off in the distance ...

Marcello and Giada are wondering what I'm gazing wistfully at off in the distance ...

                               May 2016                                                                 October 2016      

                               May 2016                                                                 October 2016      

Chinese Sausage Fried Cauliflower "Rice"

Adapted from Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes cookbook

Stuff Ingredients

1/2 cup thin coins of Chinese sweet sausage (or diced bacon or pancetta)

1/2 cup frozen peas (I'm not really into peas, so I didn't include them in my rice)

Sauce Ingredients

1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fried Rice Ingredients

3 cups cooked cauliflower "rice"

3 tablespoon neutral oil

Stuff ingredients

Sauce ingredients

2 large eggs, beaten

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger

2-4 scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens separated

  • Make the cauliflower "rice": Core a medium head of cauliflower and chop into florets. In batches, toss the cauliflower into a food processor and pulse until the florets are broken down into rice-sized pieces. Be careful not to over-blitz - keep an eye on it and stop when the cauliflower resembles rice. One head gave me about 5 1/2 cups, so I reserved the remaining 2 1/2 cups and tossed it in the freezer for the next time my cauliflower fried rice craving hits.
  • Cook the cauliflower rice: In a large skillet, or preferably a well-seasoned wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add 3 cups of the cauliflower rice, stirring to coat with the oil. Let the cauliflower sit for 30 seconds to a minute, then toss in the hot wok and let it set again. Cook the cauliflower this way until it is close to the texture of an al-dente white rice. It took me about 8-10 minutes to achieve this. Remove the "rice" from the wok and wipe it clean.
  • Bringing it all together: Mix together your sauce ingredients and have your "stuff" ingredients in bowls right by the stove, ready to go. This goes fast from this point on so you want everything chopped and ready to go and on hand.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok (or a heavy skillet if that's what you're using) over medium-high to high heat (my stove cooks hot so I keep it to medium-high). Poor the eggs into the skillet when the oil is hot and cook, folding the cooked egg up and over itself until set but still glossy and tender - about 30 seconds. Remove the egg from the pan.
  • Pour the remaining tablespoon of oil into the wok. Add the ginger, garlic and scallion whites. Stir-fry for just a few seconds, then add your stuff (Chinese sausage and peas). Continue cooking and stirring until the stuff is cooked through - about 1-3 minutes. 
  • Dump your cauliflower "rice" into the pan and toss to combine all the ingredients. Use a spatula (you have a wok spatula, right?) to spread the rice mixture evenly on the bottom of the wok. Stir and fold the rice once a minute for 3 minutes until it begins to get hot and a little charred in spots.
  • Pour the sauce over the rice and toss to coat everything. Wok spatulas are great for this ...
  • Keep cooking the rice, tossing and spreading again until is evenly colored and looks pleasantly dry (don't get impatient!). Return the scrambled eggs to the pan, chopping a couple of times to break them up, then toss in the green scallions to finish. 
  • Try to keep from fighting your family members for the last bite.