Chinese White Porridge – Congee

When I saw this recipe in a New York Times article, I was editing my Chinese railroad worker novel. Congee, also known as báizhōu, or white porridge is a daily staple in China.

When railroad workers came to California, in the mid-1860s, they would have eaten it in their camps. In China, it was consumed in times of famine and is still served during festivals and religious ceremonies. It is also given to infants and to those who are ill.

For research and realistic writing, I had to try it!

At its essence, congee is a small amount of grain cooked low and slow with a lot of water.

Basic Recipe

1/2 cup rice – thoroughly rinsed

6 cups water

Cook low on a stovetop or in a crockpot for approximately 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

I started out skeptical. I could not imagine how a half cup of rice could thicken six cups of water! Every time I stirred it, I shook my head because it looked like nothing had changed. Then toward the end – voila!

What Happens During the Cooking Process

The grains burst, releasing starch. What results is a lovely soft textured, thickened mush or soup.

What You Add Determines the Flavor

Congee is like a blank art canvas waiting for colorful paint.

Common Chinese Additions; tripe, intestine, crab, fish, bamboo shoots, pickled tofu, hundred-year-old eggs, lettuce, and/or soy sauce.

Other grain options;  cornmeal, millet, barley, brown rice and sorghum
For additional variations, see Soothing Savory Porridge

You Might Also Try;

Sweet – raisins, nuts, and brown sugar
Savory – beef or chicken broth, meatballs, pork, shredded chicken, salmon patties, scrambled eggs, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, onions, chives,

 

Wikipedia Congee

Savory Porridge

This is a no shopping, no reading recipe. All it requires is rooting around on your shelves for items you already have – things that will thicken – and an approximation for the correct amount of water.

Examples of thickening grains; rice, quinoa, oats, bulger, and couscous

For the water to grain ratio, it’s about 2 to 1. Two cups of water for every cup of solids.

When I make this, I place the dry items in a pot, then eyeball the water to cover it.

Here’s what I included with this batch.

Quinoa blend. This thickening grain comprised the bulk of the mixture.

Since lentils are thicker than the quinoa, the cooking time was based on these.

If using a bouillon base, calculate the amount to coincide with the amount of water used.

Heat on medium, stirring occasionally.

Taste test for doneness.

*Tip: If the grains still need more cooking time as the water begins to evaportate – add more.

 

Bacon – Flat, Crisp & Splatter-free

Spread bacon strips between layers of paper towels on a flat plate. (Don’t overlap.)

Microwave on high for 6.5minutes.

Check crispiness. If more is desired, cook at 2 minutes increments until it’s how you like it.

Hal Greene’s connection to the Wrysinski / Schmidt’s; Two of his sons married two of the sisters.


A byproduct of this cooking method is a heap of bacon fat-infused paper towels. Most composters agree animal fat should not go into the outdoor pile. Putting these paper towels in the garbage may attract dogs and urban adapted animals such as raccoon, coyote, and bear (in more remote areas). Since I’m always interested in alternatives other than entombing refuse in great twentieth-century pyramids, I encourage and welcome waste disposal recommendations in the comments section.

Egg Poaches – Herb Broth & Mexican with Tomatillo and Epazote Sauce

Eggs Poached in Herb Broth

To a pan with a lid, add

between 1/4 – 1/2 cup of water per egg
add chicken, beef, or mushroom broth to taste
two shakes turmeric
4 shakes garlic powder
2 shakes onion powder
pinch of oregano
Bring to boil, reduce to simmer
add egg(s)
cover & cook for approx. 2 min or until the desired yolk hardness
Gently spatula-out eggs, placing them on top of toast
Pour remaining herb broth liquid over bread
Enjoy!

 

Mexican Poached Eggs with Tomatillo Sauce and Epazote

Bake Tortillas

1 – pkg. fresh white corn tortillas  
Use scissors to cut into fourths
Spread out in a single layer on cookie sheet, spray with cooking oil
Bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown
Green Sauce Part 1
Approx. 1 lb fresh tomatillos
Peel outer husks
2 serrano peppers, remove stems and seeds
1 clove garlic
Add all to a cooking pot, cover with water
Simmer for about 15 min.
Let cool. Drain.
Put tomatillos, pepper & garlic in a blender. Blend until smooth.
Sauce Part 2
To a deep skillet, add 1 tblsp. oil
Optional: add cooked shredded chicken
Add green sauce from Part 1 and 3 epazote leaves.

Add a pinch of salt
Cook over medium heat for 5 min.
Poach the Desired Number of Eggs

Plate
Spread a layer of toasted white corn chips on plate.
Cover with green sauce.
Top with poached eggs and Queso Cotija cheese.
Garnish with fresh cilantro.
Serve with a side of refried beans.

 

 

 

 

Extras:

 

Click here to see more flavor families of the world.

Perfectly Poached Micro Story (100 words)

poach – 1

pōCH/

verb

  1. cook (an egg), without its shell, in or over boiling water.
  2. “a breakfast of poached egg and grilled bacon”
    • cook by simmering in a small amount of liquid.
    • “poach the salmon in the white wine”

poach – 2

pōCH/

verb

  1. steal

______

If you liked Perfectly Poached, you might also enjoy, Water Element of Life, The Shape of Water Continued and PBJ on my short story blog, Redfern Writes.

Perfectly Peeled Hard Boiled Eggs – Every Time

Bring water to a full, rolling boil

Gently place eggs in water (lower them into water with a spoon)

Return to full boil

Boil for 12 – 15 minutes

Rinse and soak in cold water

Guest Post by Cassandra Merrick

Chimichurri Sauce

A spicy Argentinian parsley-based green sauce for …anything; soups, eggs, salad dressing, pasties, chicken, steak, or fish.

 

In a blender, add

1 1/2 cups olive oil
1/2  cup red wine vinegar
pinch or two red chili flakes
pinch or two of  salt
couple shakes of pepper
3 – 4 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 – 3/4 tsp. cumin powder
2 bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley – most of the stems trimmed
1 bunch fresh cilantro – most of the stems trimmed

Pulse on high or ‘ice chop; setting – more olive oil if needed – until just blended (rustic).

Taste and adjust spices as desired.

Other Variations:

red onions
fresh oregano
lime or lime juice
sherry or balsamic vinegar (instead of red wine vinegar)
basil

For a creamy version, add:

avocado
sour cream or
mayonnaise

Resources:

Skirt Steak, Chimichurri & Veggies | Feli & Jamie Oliver (herb brush seasoning)

Argentinian-Style Fresh Herb Salsa and Marinade

Creamy Chimichurri Dip

Traditional Chimichurri

Apple Pudding

Pudding with a bread-like density and texture.

Original recipe:

1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped apples
1/2 cup chopped nuts
6 tblsp. flour
salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
stir & bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour

 

Lisa’s blender adaptation:

3 small apples, chunked
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup nuts (cashew, almond, pistachio trail mix)
12 tbslp. flour
1 tsp. baking power
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
blend & bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour

Corn Fritters – Mary Schmidt Schwaller

mary

“I only eat Corn Fritters with butter and syrup – simple and delicious.” Mary Schmidt Schwaller, niece of Betty Wrysinski

This recipe for Corn Fritters came from the 1949 edition of Joy of Cooking. (My mom wrote it out by hand for me as part of a wedding shower gift.)

1 cup cooked green corn or canned corn.

Drain and mash with a potato masher.

Beat until light and add:

2 eggs

Add:

6 tblsp. flour

1/2 tsp. any baking powder

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Melt in a small skillet:

2 tblsp. butter

When it is very hot, add the batter by the tablespoonful. Permit the bottom of the cakes to brown, reverse them and brown the other side.

 

In the Joy of Cooking, the recipe begins with this story.  My mom used to read to me.

When I was a child, one of eight, my father frequently promised us a marvelous treat. He, being an amateur horticulturist and arborculturist, would tell us of a fritter tree he was going to plant on the banks of a small lake filled with molasses, maple syrup or honey, to be located in our back yard. When one of our children felt the urge for the most delectable repast, all we had to do was to shake the tree, the fritters would drop into the lake and we could fish them  out and  eat fritters to our hearts’ content.

My mother was a good cook and a good helpmate, so she developed the fritter that was to grow on and fall from the tree into the lake of molasses or maple syrup or honey, as the case might be. Mr. William N. Matthews.

Joy of Cooking, 1949 excerpt, reprinted with publisher permission.

 

Guest Post by Mary Schmidt Schwaller

bud-and-ginger

Adrian (Bud) and Virginia (Ginger) Windus Schmidt

While researching genealogy, I found Lisa’s Shared Tastes blog. It had pictures of my Aunt Betty as well as some of her recipes.  It was clear that she left her mark on her family. I wish I had known her.  We both entered apple pies in contests.  She won first place, I won second.

bud-and-ginger2

Adrian (Bud) and Virginia (Ginger) Schmidt on their wedding day. (Mary Schmidt Schwaller’s parents.)

There is a picture of a birthday celebration; the meal was pork roast and sauerkraut.  My dad Adrian, Betty’s younger brother, loved that meal.  He used to say, “If I die today, I will die a happy man,” after eating it.  This tradition lives on in Park Falls as this meal is served at most restaurants for “Sunday supper.”

We didn’t have much money so my parents had to be inventive when trying to create special treats.   I clearly remember Sunday evening Disney movies on the TV and the dining room table full of homemade deep fried potato chips and French fries.   The recipe would be as you would expect, fresh potatoes, boiling oil, and lots of salt.

I was asked to share a Wisconsin Schmidt recipe.  Every recipe I considered was already there from Grandma Betty.  Potato dumplings, casseroles, pork roast, etc.

Through the blog, I was able to connect with my California family.  I have gotten to know my cousin Mary and was lucky enough to meet my cousin Peggy in October, 2016.  It is odd how similar our lives have been even though we lived so far apart.

 

__________________

Lisa’s Notes about Names:

I asked my Aunt Mary (family historian) to help sort out the names for this post. Her response clarified why the confusion exists:

“Bud equals Adrian.  Betty equals Elisabeth.  Josie equals Joanne.  Stanley equals Gus.”

“I asked Uncle Bud (Adrian Schmidt) once if anyone was ever called by their given name.  He said the German community in Park Falls had nicknames for a lot of people.  Below is part of an article he wrote for 100 Years on the Flambeau, a local history book about the Price County area in upper Wisconsin.  Apparently nicknames were a tradition.”

uncle-bud-article

 

 

 

 

 

Sauce Series – White Sauces – 4 of 5

White sauces are made with milk, buttermilk, yogurt, coconut milk, butter, other white liquids and thickening agents.

 

Basic White Sauce

2 tblsp. Butter

2 tblsp. Flour

1 cup milk

½ tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

Melt butter and stir in flour. Gradually add milk and stir until mixture boils and thickens. Cook an additional 3 minutes.

Use on seafood, vegetables, fish, or meat.

Additions to white sauce:

Chopped parsley 2 – 4 tblsp.

Mustard – 2 tsp.

Cheese – ½ – 1 cup grated cheese

 

Horseradish Cream Sauce

½ cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks.

4 -6 tblsp. horseradish

½ tps. Salt

Pinch of pepper

Serve with ham, beef or fish.

 

Makes ¾ cup sauce.

 

Lemon Roux

 

Pan Gravy

Approximate the amount of flour needed to thicken the volume of meat drippings available. Place flour in a dressing / gravy shaker or whisk with cool water and shake or blend till smooth.

To meat drippings (fat) [from a turkey, chicken, bacon, or roast] in a deep pan over medium heat, slowly add flour and water mixture. Stir continuously. After the mixture has thickened, continue cooking for a few more minutes to make sure that the raw flour taste has been dispelled.

 

Hollandaise Sauce

2/4 cup butter

1 ½ tblsp. Lemon juice

3 egg yolks, well beaten with dash of salt

Cayenne pepper

 

Divide butter in the three parts. Place one piece in top of a small double broiler, add lemon juice and egg yolks. Place over hot water (not boiling) and cook slowly, whisk constantly.

When butter is melted, add second piece. Keep whisking. As mixture thickens, add the final piece of butter.

Once the mixture is about as thick as gravy, remove from heat, add salt and serve immediately.

Can be used over vegetables (asparagus), fish, shellfish and poached eggs.

Lightly finish with cayenne pepper.

 

Makes: ¾ cup
Trouble shooting: If sauce is curdling, dilute by the teaspoon with hot water while constantly whisking.

______________

Check out the other videos in this Sauce Series

Sauce Series #1 – taste bud training

Sauce Series #2 – red sauces

Sauce Series #3 – brown sauces & thickening agents

 

Mock ‘Chopped’ #5 – group cooking challenge how-to

 

 

Group Cooking Challenge – Mock ‘Chopped’

Here’s how to organize a group cooking challenge in your kitchen. (Roughly based on the TV show ‘Chopped.’)

Goal: Create a social experience, experiment, learn something new, and have fun!

Mystery Items:

Each participant brings 3-5 strange, unusual, foreign, untried, or previously unknown food items.

At the beginning, the challenge master collects these, groups them, and distributes them evenly among the chefs.

‘Rule’ Guidelines:

We decided not to attempt timed rounds. (Too much pressure!)

As a group, open and taste all the ingredients.

Everything in the kitchen pantry, spice cupboards, and refrigerator / freezer is available for use. (Or clearly define off-limits areas.)

If someone is stumped about what to prepare, everyone helps to brainstorm until they have a direction.

At the conclusion, everyone shares the meal.

Judging (if desired) can be accomplished by an individual, with a panel, or as group.

 

Ideas for Group Kitchen Challenge Themes:

All organic

Appetizers

Breakfast foods

Egg based

Ethnic cooking

Foodie specialists

Foods of color – purple, orange, green, etc.

For people around the age of ten (scrambles, healthy snacks, smoothies)

For people over twenty-one (food and beverage / wine pairings)

Movie / game night foods

Pasta & toppings

Picnic fare

Salads

Soups – freezer container portioned for make-ahead meals

Vegetarian

Wraps

 

__________________