Back in October Deb started seeing a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine for some digestive issues she had been experiencing for a while that we couldn’t seem to nail down the cause of. The doctor, FeiFei Liu, came highly recommended by some trusted friends and Deb has always been curious about the TCM arts. Deb had actually been waiting for the better part of a year to get an appointment with her because FeiFei had been in China for 10 months studying with an aging herbal master.
FeiFei described the healing process (a combination of acupuncture and herbal remedies) as a puzzle of bringing the body into balance – one organ or issue at a time. Of course, Deb and I are not incredibly patient people, but our way wasn’t working, so perhaps it was time to broaden our minds and embrace something new (or OLD to be more precise). When Deb came home from her first appointment with FeiFei she had a short list of dos and don’t – nothing crazy or extreme – and a recommendation to eat something called “Congee” for breakfast.
Now, I am always up for a new culinary experience, but when I consulted the Google and saw what Congee was, I was less than excited. Essentially, congee is rice porridge – rice cooked in water or broth until the grains essentially disintegrate and it looks something like the bowls of gruel served to the orphan children in “Oliver Twist.” It really looked terrible.
Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT a picky eater. I’ll pretty much try anything. However, I have never been a big “porridge” person. I like oatmeal, but it’s always on the sweet side. I never liked Cream of Wheat or Cream of Rice when I was growing up. To be quite honest, the texture of them activated my gag reflex. And to make matters worse, most of the recipes I was finding for Congee were savory. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it and I found myself in full on resistance mode. I wanted NOTHING to do with this Congee stuff.
Deb was amused by how deep I was digging in my heels on the issue, but the very thought of rice gruel made me sick to my stomach. So, I did what I do when faced with something I don’t want to deal with. I didn’t deal with it. I ignored it. When Deb would bring it up, I quickly changed the subject. This went on for weeks before I finally relented and went on a quest for a Congee recipe that I thought I might be able to stomach. This is the recipe I found and I tell you now, before God and the entire blogosphere:
I was WRONG!
This Garlic Beef and Onion Congee from Food & Wine is AMAZING and has become a staple in our breakfast rotation. Don’t be as resistant as I was. Give it a try!
- 1 cup raw long-grain white rice, rinsed
- 7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- One-inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 medium red onion, diced
- 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
How to Make It
In large pot add stock, rice, salt and ginger. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Stir occasionally so that the rice doesn’t clump or stick at the bottom. Simmer the congee for about 1 hour or until the congee is thickened and creamy.(NOTE: I used a slow cooker – just dump the stock, rice, salt, and ginger in the crockpot and cook on Low for ~8-10 hours – and it worked great).
While the congee is cooking, heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add the oil, and then stir in the onion and garlic. (NOTE: I also added about 2 tsp. of sesame oil) Cook for about 1 minute or until soft, and then stir in the beef.
Cook the beef for about 10 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Stir in the soy sauce, and then remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in the chopped cilantro.
Pour the congee in serving bowls and top with the beef mixture. Serve the congee hot.
This recipe makes 6 hearty portions. It thickens substantially when cooled (think cold oatmeal), so I added more vegetable stock to a saucepan when reheating.
Really, this is now one of my new favorite recipes! Today I am making a 3-bean version (substituting a can each of red kidney beans, black beans, and great northern beans for the ground beef). I’ll let you know how it turns out!