Congee, like fried rice, is an essential leftovers vehicle. This soupy sister-meal can incorporate bits of whatever you have on hand—and the week after Thanksgiving is prime time for having somesuch cooked delicacies on hand indeed. No matter what your cravings were for that last Thursday in November, they’re sure to be quite different now, a few days past the holiday, with leftovers to burn in the fridge still. (Especially if you’re fond of collecting others’ leftovers, too, like #Dukarcass.)
You don’t have to hold congee somewhere near and dear in your heart to appreciate its soul-soothing comforts. I’ve enjoyed slurping up bowlfuls of rice laden with sparse proteins for as long as I can remember, but I imagine there’s an application for grains cooked in a similar manner in just about every culture. Hence, this dish is not even a recipe, it’s a suggestion; it’s a solution, not a predetermination. But it’s a trustworthy way to enjoy nearly anything a second time around. And if you enjoy the typical toppings of roast pork or roast duck with congee, then you can find kindred savory, gamey flavor in shreds of pre-roasted turkey, too.
Ginger scallion oil, rice porridge, sliced shiitakes, and roasted turkey shreds for a quick assembly
I actually spoke with a chef recently who admitted to going to Congee Village on the Bowery for Thanksgiving as an ongoing tradition with friends. For some, it’s much more exciting to stray entirely from the “traditional Thanksgiving meal,” or even home-cooked food, to make the holiday just that. But I think you can have it both ways—without even leaving home to boot.
Rice is cooked with water or turkey stock until a soup-like mush.
It begins with a handful of grains, rice—unless you’d rather do oats or spelt or something, which is totally fine. Leftover box from a Chinese take-out night? Fine. Uncooked rice from a plastic bag? Also works. We cook this rice with plenty of water until a satisfying consistency is attained. For some it could be more or less structured like risotto, for others (my mother, for instance) it’s barely suspended grains in milky water. It helps though to use short-grain rice to achieve a creamier, porridge-like consistency, if that’s what you’re going for.
Meanwhile, dried shiitakes take a bath to reconstitute.
Then you want to flavor it. I wanted to diverge from the fall flavors of a local Thanksgiving feast (think rosemary and, oh, I guess butter) and enjoy some spicy ginger, fresh-tasting scallion and toasty sesame oil. So I made a quick batch of ginger-scallion oil, which is really just chopped ginger and scallions, salted and drenched with bubbling-hot oil. I used sesame oil for said oil to infuse it with more flavor.
Fresh ginger and scallion are chopped or minced and sprinkled with salt.
After sitting in salt a few minutes, hot oil is poured on top. Sauce is done.
Then I slivered some soaked and reconstituted dried shiitake mushrooms, to layer atop the bowl along with the roasted turkey shreds. I think it complemented the earthy, savory turkey’s flavor and added some textural contrast. Use fresh shiitake (or whatever) mushrooms, sliced and lightly sauteed, if you don’t have the dried pantry staple instead.
A sprinkle of white pepper on top of the bowl is imperative.
Warning: It’s really easy to go overboard and make too much of the rice porridge than you’ll need, since the water adds so much to its mass as it cooks down. So if you’re not careful, you’ll end up having even more leftovers to deal with—a tragicomedy ending to post-holiday saga. So slurp heartily, and if need be, rice porridge at least freezes better than turkey.
Congee with Roast Turkey, Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger Scallion Sauce
(makes 4-6 servings)
1/2 cup short or medium-grain white rice
- 1/2 cup short or medium-grain white rice
- 4-5 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 3 scallions
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger
- 4 tablespoons sesame oil