Oooo, that Mark Bittman, he's a clever cleaver. His column last weekend in the NYTimes Magazine featured Rice Porridge. It sounded like Congee (which I love) so I made a batch.
I'm happy to report that it delivered on all levels. It's an easy, basic recipe with an infinite number of variations. It's also fantastic for breakfast, topped with a soft-boiled egg, scallion and something strong or crunchy like shaved botarga, chicken cracklings or crispy fried onions.
One caution, use the largest stock pot you have. A six-quart pot should be fine. Or, cut the recipe in half and use a one-gallon stock pot.
Jook without garnish is nothing, just rice and chicken broth. Top it with grilled asparagus, julienne ginger, crispy chicken skin, dungeness crab, chopped scallion, fish sauce, toasted sesame oil, crispy fried onion or leftover veggies etc, etc, etc. Anything will do.
There are other jook recipes in the inter/web/cloud that use smoked ham hock instead of chicken to flavor the rice. I'm guessing a smoked turkey leg would also do. Try it, let me know how it tastes.
Here's the recipe for Mark Bittman's Rice Porridge (aka jook or congee)
Yield: roughly six generous portions
1 chicken, 3-5 pounds
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 cup jasmine rice
16 cups water (one gallon)
1 inch chunk of ginger peeled and roughly chopped
Rub the chicken with salt, refrigerate for 12 hours.
Toast rice in a large stock pot (>1 gallon) until fragrant. Add water and ginger. Bring to a boil. Add chicken, the whole chicken, gently glide it into the rice water. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
Remove and cool chicken. The bird should be fully cooked but still firm. This is important because it's damn difficult to get a slippery chicken out of boiling rice broth when it's overcooked and falling apart. Even so, be careful. Jook makes a terrible, sticky mess on the stove when it spills or bubbles over.
While the rice cooks, carefully remove the chicken skin. Not much will come off easily but the bit that will is worth making into cracklings.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay the skin on a sheet tray or jelly roll pan. Season with black pepper. Bake for 10 minutes on one side, flip bake for 5 - 8 additional minutes.
Pull the meat from the bones, shred and set aside.
Continue to simmer the porridge for about 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until the rice is almost completely broken down and the porridge has a thick, heavy cream-like consistency.
Ladle into bowls, top with garnish, and enjoy.