Rarely do I have all of the text pre-written for a blog post, but as it happens this post was inspired by a participatory event on (what else?) Google Plus. September was cook-a-book month and as I searched the internet and my memory for any references to food I could make some time to cook during this hectic part of my life. Then, as I was reading an installment of one of my favorite detective series, inspiration struck. A seemingly easy food; a comfort food; a breakfast, lunch and dinner food; it was cheap and nourishing, both a side and a main (depending on preparation) and for some evocative of childhood and days in bed, home sick. That's right: this dish is even considered by many to be medicinal. What is this miracle dish? Well, it is a savory rice porridge and a version of it is made in many Asian countries, but I am sharing with you one of the Chinese versions: Congee.
And it came from:
Ruddy Gore a Phryne Fisher mystery by Kerry Greenwood
The Honourable Phryne Fisher, with the help of her clever companion Dot, solves murders in 1920's Melbourne with unflappable panache. She drives a racing auto, flies planes and solves mysteries and through it all manages to keep her exquisite clothing intact. She also rather enjoys a good meal.
Ruddy Gore sees her solving the mysteries of the death of a leading man playing in the title Gilbert & Sullivan opera, a ghost in the theater and uniting a father and daughter previously unknown to one another.
"Phryne accepted a delicate porcelain bowl of what looked very like library paste and took up her spoon.
'What is this?' she asked, sipping at a smooth, bland soup.
'Rice gruel--the French call it congee. It tastes better than porridge, I think.'"
Brown Rice and Ginger Congee with Chicken
Everyone around me seems to have the sniffles. It's understandable, as the weather gets colder. My first time trying congee I was told it was often given to someone to help recover from illness, so I thought it would be a perfect post to (hopefully) squeeze in to the cook a book event. I washed my rice five times, covering it in plenty of water each time, then using a whisk to agitate the water and rubbing the grains vigorously between my palms. After 5 such rinses the rice water was finally clear instead of cloudy and the rice clean enough to make congee with. I also used a couple of ice cubes of a zesty mushroom stock I made and froze awhile back to kick up the flavor a little.
Brown Rice Congee w/ Ginger and Sliced Chicken
approx 360 grams boneless, skinless chicken
1" ginger, peeled
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup short grain rice (I used brown)
8 cups water
1/4 onion, roughly chopped
2 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce, or to taste
1/4 Teaspoon sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Wash the rice repeatedly using the method described above. When the water is clear even after whisking and rubbing the rice in it drain the rice and set aside.
2. pulse the onion, 1/2 the ginger, garlic and sesame oil in the blender with a very small drizzle of soy sauce.
3. In a large, heavy-bottomed stock or pasta pot, combine water, stock, soy sauce and onion/ginger/garlic paste.
4. Bring to a boil and add rice.
5. Turn down to a lazy boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 90 minutes. The grains should lose a lot of their shape and form a very thick broth by this point.
6. Trim the fat from your chicken and thinly slice it. Marinate it for 15 minutes in a drizzle of soy sauce, the remaining ginger (grated) and a crushed clove of garlic.
7. Add the chicken to the pot, cover, and cook for another 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Serve hot and garnished with your favorite garnish (ours were garnished with green onions, sliced thai chili, rooster sauce and cilantro).