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

Stuffed Baked Apple (Individual)

Individual apple pies!

STEP ONE: Prepare Apple Stuffing

Simmer

1 bag of fresh cranberries with 

½ cup raisins

¼ cup chopped pecans (or other nuts)

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup water

Cook until berries burst and most liquid is absorbed.

Add ¼ tsp cinnamon

And 5 crumbled gingersnap cookies & mix thoroughly (reserve enough cookies for the base of your apples)

STEP TWO: Prepare Apples

Place 5 gingersnap cookies in a baking pan.

Cut the center out of 5 apples

 

Place coreless apples on top of cookies.

STEP THREE: Stuff & Bake Apples

Take 5 tablespoons of cranberry stuffing, place in a separate bowl.

Add 2 or 3 eggs.

Mix thoroughly. Fill apple holes with stuffing.

Place a small slice of butter on top of the apple.

 

Cook at 350° for one hour

Remaining apple stuffing is a great addition to morning oatmeal or with yogurt or cottage cheese!

 

*If you tried this and liked it…AND concocted your own apple stuffing, please revisit to tell us about it.

Three-Meat Giant Meatball Soup

from above

STEP ONE: Make Meatballs

Three packs of ground meat

Turkey, beef, and Italian sausage were used in this batch, but it also works well with pork, elk & buffalo. (In the comments, send combinations you discover and love!)

Bread crumbs

I make mine from scratch. 

Cut bread in small squares, place flat on cooking in sheet in 200° oven till crisped to desired amount.  For his recipe, I used Kalamata Olive Sourdough bread.

Once you have tiny toast squares, blend them in the blender till they look like…bread crumbs.

Additional Items

Salt, pepper and any other spices you like.

½ bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped

2-3 eggs

Mix ingredients to the consistency of meatloaf

Prepare Meatball Stuffing

Peel and chop fresh garlic cloves

garlic-3185163_640

and hunks of parmesan cheese

cheese-3058056_640

Roll ground meat mixture into palm-sized balls, pressing garlic cloves and cheese into the center, making sure they are completely covered.

Bake covered in a 350° oven for 50 minutes, uncover and bake for 10 more minutes.

 

STEP TWO: Cook pasta in chicken broth

Use any kind of pasta you have on hand.
Drain when cooked.

STEP THREE: Make Green Soup

Finely chop spinach, chard, and onions

Saute in olive oil till tender, add chicken broth to cover

 

*If a smooth soup is desired, let cool completely then blend in a blender.

Assemble Soup

Steam meatballs to reheat if you made them ahead.

assembled

Combine all. Enjoy!

 

This is one of those meals that tastes better after a day in the refrigerator.

Miners Shovel Bread & Watercress, Potato & Tomato Salad

Fast food for miners.

After a long, hard day in the creek bed shoveling and sifting gravel, the last thing a 49’er miner wanted to do was prepare a meal. This simple fare offered a quick fix as well as a host of health problems.

Shovel Bread

Start a fire. Let the wood burn down to coals.
Mix:

2 tbsp butter
1 ½ cup flour
water
salt
onion powder
1 egg

Stir until smooth. *The batter should be thick.

Using a clean shovel, rest it in coals until hot.

A deep fire pit is NOT necessary for this recipe.

Support shovel firmly over coals. Pour batter over the blade. Use a long-handled spatula or spoon to keep it in place until the base sets.

Lightly press against batter to determine doneness.

It’s done when it feels spongy.

 

Click on the photo to watch a video about malnutrition during the California Gold Rush.

Learn about Scurvy in California’s Food Capital.

Watercress, Potato & Tomato Salad

Finely chop potatoes.
Fry in oil till done.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Set aside to cool.
Chop or tear watercress into bite-sized pieces.
Add fresh or sun-dried tomatoes (in oil).
Dress with red wine vinegar and oil.
Top with grated cheese.

 

Resources:

 

Huffington Post – Recipes That Show You How Watercress Is Supposed To Be Eaten

Sauteed Potato and Watercress – Quick Vegan Side

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

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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

Eggnog

Image by Billy McDermott

Image by Billy McDermott

Step 1

10 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

1 cup brandy

1 cup rum

2 quarts milk

1 pint half & half

Image By Bill Stilwell

Image By Bill Stilwell

Beat egg yolks till thick and bright yellow.

 

Gradually fold in sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time

Add brandy and rum

Chill (overnight) *Watch video below about letting it sit longer

Add  milk and half and half

jeanette-2jeanette-eggnog2

Step 2

10 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1 pint whipped cream

 

Beat egg whites to stiff peaks, gradually adding sugar

gently fold in whipped cream then everything from Step 1.

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Serve with freshly grated nutmeg.

 

 

 

 

Image by Yasmina Haryono

Image by Yasmina Haryono

 

Resources – Salmonella Concerns

How to Use Science to Make Safe Eggnog With Raw EggsWIRED magazine

“Eggnog… is a velvety mix of egg proteins surrounded by sugar molecules, diluted by milk and booze to a perfect thickness for drinking. It’s a dessert-flavored milkshake for grown-ups.”

“Modern egg-handling processes in the US mean that eggs get cleaned pretty quick after they come out of the chickens and then sped to markets. The health risk with food isn’t pathogens specifically; it’s pathogens plus time. That is, do they have the right conditions to breed to disease-causing levels? This is why refrigeration works; food bugs don’t like the cold. So buy fresh eggs, keep them in the fridge, give them a quick rinse before use, and then get cracking.”  – Adam Rogers

Why You Shouldn’t Fear Eggnog – Popular Science

Cooking the Egg Base – FoodSafety.gov

 Cooked Eggnog recipe with special garnish

Polish Stuffed Cabbage

cabbage-roll-makingMeat Stuffing

1 1/2 – 2 cups Panko or Italian bread crumbs – soak in water then drain with a strainer (press firmly to remove as much water as possible).

1 lb. ground pork

1 lb. ground beef

1 lg. yellow onion chopped

1 egg

salt and pepper

Mix together like a meatloaf.

*Stop here if you prefer mild meat stuffing.

 

Since my tastes run more toward zippy, I also add;

juice from one lemon

1 tsp. Hungarian paprika

1 tsp. celery salt

1 tsp. dill

1 full pkg. of fatty bacon – cooked until drippings are obtainable

2 –  14.5 oz cans chicken broth

Cabbage Leaf Stuffing

1 large head cabbage with the core cut out.

Fill a large soup pot with water, add salt and boil.

Place the entire head of cabbage into the boiling water. Watch for the leaves to begin to separate.  Remove the leaves when they become soft or take the head out of the water, put it in a strainer, and peel the leaves.

The leaves are ready when they are translucent and soft. Continue boiling and leaf peeling until the entire cabbage is disassembled.

On a cutting board, spread a leaf out as flat as possible. Cut a “V” to remove the thickest parts.

Cut a small palm-sized portion of the leaf. Hold it in your hand and place 1 tablespoon of the meat stuffing on it. Turning it over onto the larger leaf, fold the leaf around the palm-sized portion. *The goal is to have no spaces where the meat squeezes out.

Secure with a toothpick.

Continue stuffing leaves until they’ve all been used.

Cook the Cabbage Rolls

In a large soup pot, bring 1 can of chicken broth + some water to a simmer.  Add 3 tblsp. of bacon fat.

Place stuffed cabbage rolls into the bottom of the pot in a single layer, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove cooked rolls, add another batch to the pot to cook for 30 minutes. Add more water / broth as needed.

*The brand of bacon that I had didn’t yield much fat, so I added three full strips of bacon to the chicken broth in the pot.

Gravy

Add 1 can of chicken broth to the remainder of the bacon grease. Heat till warm.

*I had more meat stuffing than the cabbage leaves would hold, so I fried it up and added it to the gravy.

Blend a couple of tablespoons of flower with water and slowly add to broth mixture, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.

Storage

Place cabbage rolls in a casserole dish and cover with gravy. Heat them at 350 degrees in the oven for 45-50 minutes if you have a large group to feed or place the dish in the refrigerator and eat them a couple at a time.

with-vinegar-and-creme-fresh2

 

Being a vinegar fan, I liberally douse my stuffed cabbage rolls with red wine vinegar. London Malt vinegar is good too as is rice vinegar – though milder. Top it off with Crème Fraîche, plain yogurt or sour cream.

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.

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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

 

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