Flounder and chicken congee
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Otherwise known as jook, congee consists of rice and (either water or) stock that’s slowly simmered until the rice grains begin to break down. The result is a thick porridge that epitomizes Chinese comfort food at its very best. It’s perfect for a chilly autumn evening like tonight.
There are as many recipes and variations of congee as there might be hairs on a donkey’s tail. This version contains flounder that was marinated in a mixture of sesame oil, rice wine and soy sauce, along with some leftover roast chicken from last week’s chicken dinner.
The beauty of congee is that it can be a flavor vehicle for whatever toppings you happen to have on hand. These may include chopped deep-fried strips of dough, “hundred-year old” eggs, roasted peanuts, minced onion chives and nam yu (fermented tofu).
1 cup rice
10 cups Chinese chicken stock — (1)
ginger, thinly sliced
1 flounder fillet, cut into 1″ medium cubes
leftover roast chicken, shredded (from last weekend’s chicken dinner)
pinch of salt
slivered scallions, for garnish
fried shallots, for garnish — (2)
roasted peanuts, for garnish
gomashio, for garnish — (3)
minced cilantro, for garnish
nam yu, for garnish — (4)
For the fish marinade:
1 T. light soy sauce
1 T. sesame oil
pinch of white pepper
1 T. rice wine
Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper and rice wine. Pour over fish cubes and set aside. Marinate for one hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the congee. Combine rice and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Add salt and sliced ginger. Turn heat to the lowest possible setting and cover. Cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remember to stir and check the consistency. If it becomes too thick, add some water. The congee is done when it reaches the consistency of pancake batter.
Once you have achieved the desired consistency, add fish and leftover roast chicken to the pot. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, covered.
Serve congee in bowls, passing garnishes at the table. Leftovers can be frozen; keeps up to 6 months in the freezer.
(1) — Essentially chicken stock infused with ginger, garlic and star anise. Water is fine as a substitute.
(2) — Mince 2 or 3 large shallots, then quickly fry them until golden brown.
(3) — Gomashio is a 5:1 mixture of toasted sesame seeds and salt. Used to season rice in the same way as furikake.
(4) — Nam yu is fermented tofu. Available at some Asian markets.