Congee Morning

Sun pouring through the window. Lone boat on the river. Woke up to the scent of the chicken stock I made last night while we were sleeping through the Oscars. What I want is a walk along the river in the early morning wind, and a comforting bowl of congee when I return.

There is nothing easier to make than the classic Chinese breakfast. It is basically rice slowly cooked with lots of liquid. I like to use arborio rice, although it's not traditional, and any kind of rice you happen to have on hand will do. The ratio is about 1 cup of rice to 8 cups of liquid; I think it tastes best with chicken stock, although you can certainly use plain water. Put the rice and liquid in a pot, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pot and let it simmer for an hour. Stir it once in a while. The result is a thick, creamy porridge, a canvas for flavor. What you choose as garnish is completely up to you, but to me a julienne of ginger is essential, as is a little shot of really good soy sauce. Peanuts and scallions are nice, and shredded chicken or shiitakes are lovely too. But this morning? I've got some leftover chiles in black beans that will provide the jolt of electricity I need on this late winter morning.

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Congee - or jook - is the best reason for Thanksgiving turkey. Simmer the carcass, strain and heat the broth with rice. The traditional Chinese condiment is chung choy, salted turnip. Soak in water, rinse and chop fine. Serve jook with turnip, heated, shredded chicken or turkey seasoned with shoyu (soy sauce) and sesame oil. and green onions (scallions).

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Where am I eating? What's for dinner tonight? And what books have I been reading? For a look at what's going on in my life lately, take a look at this journal, which I try to update on a regular basis.