Wednesday, October 31, 2012

It's not Mom's congee, but it's still delicious

One of my biggest neglects of this blog so far is never writing about one of Mom's most wonderful, magical comfort foods: congee.

I've asked her more than once how she makes it, but like most of her dishes it's a work in progress that is hard to pin down an exact recipe for. The most recent explanation required marinating chicken for days, using homemade chicken stock, cooking the congee for hours and hours ... I was instantly dismayed.

And it's not just because the process is long. It's more that I know I won't like the congee that I make as much as hers. Unless ... I make a completely different recipe.

So that's what I'm doing right now, as I sit sniffling with a head cold and trying REALLY hard to not call Mom and ask her to bring me some congee. I am a grown woman, dammit, and I can make my own health remedies (unless I have the flu, in which case I most certainly would ask Mommy to bring me some congee!)!

Luckily, I just learned a simple congee recipe in my Therapeutic Cooking class with Jennifer Adler, in which she simply threw all of the ingredients in a pressure cooker then served it to us drooling students. First, I'll share her written recipe with you, then I'll share with you my version, which is pictured above, so you can experiment with both:


Serves: 4
Preperation time: 3 + hours
Active time: 15 minutes

Congee is a long-simmered, rice porridge soup. According to Chinese medicine, simmering this soup for three hours balances the yin and yang of each ingredient, making it highly medicinal and easy to assimilate.

Congee is easy to make in a crock pot. Put the soup together before going to bed and wake up to this satisfying porridge. You can also put it together before going to work and the soup will be ready when you come home.

3/4 cup long grain rice
9 cups water or stock
1 4-inch piece kombu seaweed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ume plum vinegar or to taste
1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast
4 eggs
2 scallions, chopped
optional addition: sauteed mushrooms

Place rice, water, kombu and salt in a 3-quart soup pot or crock pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to very slow simmer and cook for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours. Add additional liquid if necessary. Prior to serving remove the kombu, add the chicken and crack the eggs onto the top of the congee. Do not stir the egg in. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until the eggs have cooked to desired texture. Garnish with scallions and optional mushrooms.

Copyright 2009, J. Adler, original recipe

Not Your Asain Mother's Congee

3/4 cup brown long grain rice
8 cups chicken stock
1 handful dried shitake mushrooms
1-inch piece ginger, sliced
1 clove ginger, minced
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped celery
4-inch piece kombu seaweed
4 eggs
Beet greens or other green leafy vegetables

Place rice, chicken stock, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, carrot, celery and kombu in a pressure cooker. After pot has come up to pressure, cook for 1 hour or longer, until soup reaches porridge-like consistency. After congee has thickened, remove ginger, blend the kombu separately and stir it in (or remove), then crack the eggs into the congee and simmer for about 10 minutes (like you would poach an egg). Place a handful of beet greens or other green leafy vegetables in a bowl, then ladle congee on top to soften. Add seasonings to taste (i.e. garlic-chili sauce, soy sauce or amino acids).

THE VERDICT: Indeed, it is not my mother's congee. I much prefer the less healthy century eggs Mom sometimes puts in congee over fresh eggs, but on the other hand, I also think using brown rice gives it a much richer flavor and nuttier texture. Nothing beat's Mom's congee, and one of these days I will get a recipe to you, but in the meantime I hope this will suffice!