Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Eat Twice - Quick and Easy, Vegetable-Chicken Congee-Style Rice Bowl

We've all been there. One hand holds the refrigerator door open as we stare into the brightly illuminated emptiness. We're hungry. We want something that doesn't take much time to prepare.

Where are all the great things to eat? What happened to the chicken and dumplings we made a few days ago? Oh, yeah, we finished that off at lunch. What about the brown sugar pork ribs that were so delicious? The crispy fried chicken? The roasted artichokes? Oh, yeah, all gone.

We could make a salad, but there's no Little Gem lettuce, no arugula, not even Italian parsley. We meant to go to the market. There just wasn't time.


But all is not lost. There's a container of steamed rice we brought home from a meal at the Chinese restaurant. There aren't any leafy greens in the vegetable bin, but there are a few things from last weekend's farmers market. A carrot, an onion, an ear of corn, a dozen English pea pods, a few mushrooms and a bunch of kale.

To make what I have in mind, we need homemade stock. A quick look in the freezer and, yes!, there's a container of chicken stock we made with the left over chicken from the Peruvian restaurant. Maybe our prospects aren't so bleak.

Eat Twice

The key to unlocking this deliciousness is repurposing or more specifically re-imagining what was served up for one meal that can be magically transformed into another.

One of my favorites is a richly flavored rice dish that uses freshly cooked rice or, in the spirit of Eat Twice, rice brought home after a meal at our favorite Vietnamese or Chinese restaurant.

The dish is a cousin of Asian congee, traditionally a soupy, pale white, savory morning bowl of boiled rice mixed with a protein. The version I want you to try is vibrant, colorful and richly layered with flavors and textures.

Use farmers market vegetables to give the dish a crisp freshness. Homemade stock braises the rice to create a comforting creaminess (without using cream).

I always use a mix of vegetables, especially shiitake mushrooms, onions, carrots, broccoli, corn kernels and English peas when they are available. For my pescatarian wife, I use homemade vegetable stock and add tofu or freshly deveined shrimp.

For me, I love a mix of cooked chicken and chopped up shumai, those wonderful pork filled dumplings served as a dim sum dish, or bbq pork sparerib meat cut off the bone and chopped into bite-sized pieces.


I also like using broccoli leaves. At the farmers market, many people peel off the leaves and leave them on the table. With the farmer's permission, I scoop them up, a treasure waiting to flavor my dishes. The stems should be cut into thin rounds. The leaves should be shredded. They are delicious.

In the summer, I use a medley of warm weather vegetables like corn and English peas. In colder weather, I rely on squash, sturdy leafy greens like kale and broccoli.


Vegetable and Chicken Congee

Convenient and versatile, left-over rice may feel dry to the touch but introduce a hot liquid and the grains plump up and return their former deliciousness.

Use any kind of rice you enjoy except wild rice.

If using freshly cooked rice, the time needed to cook the rice will be much less so add the rice to the simmering broth at the last minute so the grains do not absorb too much liquid and become soggy.

Use any vegetables you enjoy.

Homemade stock is preferable because it will be lower in sodium content and you can control the quality. And, it is less expensive than store bought canned or frozen stock. 

For a vegan version, use vegetables and vegetable broth.

For a spicy version, include 1 cup finely chopped kimchi.

Yield: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

4 cups cooked rice

4 cups stock, preferably homemade

2 cups cooked chicken meat, deboned, roughly chopped

6 leaves kale, washed, pat dried, stems removed, cut into a small pieces or 6 large broccoli leaves, stems finely sliced into rounds, leaves shredded

1 cup broccoli stems and florets, cut into small pieces

1 cup corn kernels (when available)

1 large carrot, washed, peeled, cut into corn kernel sized pieces

1/2 cup shelled English peas, washed (when available)

1 medium yellow onions, washed, peeled, root and stem ends removed, cut into corn kernel sized pieces

6 large shiitake mushrooms, washed, pat dried, tip of the stem removed, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt, ground fine

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Pinch cayenne powder (optional)

Directions

In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium flame. Add all vegetables. Sauté until lightly brown.

Add stock and chicken. Stir and simmer 10 minutes to combine flavors.


Season with sea salt, black pepper and cayenne (optional).

Add rice. Stir well to combine all ingredients.

Simmer. The cooking time will depend on the rice. If freshly cooked, the time is probably 5 minutes. If the rice needs reconstituting, probably 10 minutes.

Be careful not to overcook because the rice will become soggy.

Serve hot with enough liquid in the bowl that the rice is "wet".

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