Winter had almost rescinded its tight clutches. Two days ago I was reclining on a warm, sunlit patio in Frederick, Maryland, sipping brew samples while soaking in much-needed rays of warmth. Suddenly, memories of sunshine and 70-degree weather became a reality.
In a mere 24 hours, temperatures plummeted. Winds picked up. Precipitation accumulated, going from mist to freezing rain to snow in a blink of an eye. Not only was this a horrid “welcome back” from a trip, but along with it the cold-weather sniffles.
What is a girl to do when Old Man Winter breaks down her door?
As for me and my household, I answer with one short, sweet word:
Its names are as various as the people who prepare it: juk in Korea, zhōu in China, cháo in Vietnam; the dish varies somewhat, but all center on one feature:
This might be my most exciting culinary discovery since that delicious Lox sandwich at Nola’s Café… but that’s a different story.
A steaming bowl of congee is also incredibly nurturing. This is no lily-livered bowl of Campbell’s. This tastes *real.*
Congee is a versatile dish as well – typically, it is served with a wide range of garnishes and meats. Scallions, green onions, herbs, eggs, fish… even some freshly-roasted peanuts makes a great addition.
Oh. And don’t forget the mushrooms.
Whether you feel under the weather or the weather is just getting to you, try a bowl of congee. It will be certain to perk you up!
Brown Rice Congee with Shiitake and Greens
1 cup sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms (if substituting dried, pre-soak in hot water for 20 minutes)
Sauté the above in a large, heavy pot until mushrooms are softened. Add to pot:
9 cups water/stock
Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Add to pot:
4 ounces greens, thinly sliced (Chinese broccoli, broccoli raab, broccolini, bok choy, mustard greens, kale, etc.)
Simmer for another 30 minutes. If you want thinner, soup-like congee, add more water.
If desired, add soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, white/black pepper or other seasonings. I personally like a liberal amount of fish sauce in my congee and a dash of coriander.
Now for the garnish! There are dozens of toppings awaiting your congee bowl, but here are some of my favorites:
Chile paste (definitely helps clear the sinuses!)