|Adam served me this bowl of congee this morning, and I was all like, "There's no way I can eat that much congee!" And then I ate it.|
Adam has made this congee twice in the last couple of weeks already, and it's one of the most delicious applications of congee I've ever had. He was inspired by two recipes in James Oseland's beautiful cookbook Cradle of Flavor: the Chicken Rendang and the Celebration Rice. This recipe is Adam's interpretation of both of those recipes with congee as the medium.
Why you should make it, too: the ginger, galangal, and cardamom are all herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine to, among other things, improve digestion and regulate metabolism. Cinnamon has anti-inflammatory properties, and it can also help control blood sugar levels, which makes it an appealing congee addition if you're concerned about white rice's impact on blood sugar. The shredded coconut adds some fiber, and many of the ingredients, including ginger, galangal, garlic, turmeric and lemongrass are used in traditional medicine cultures around the world to treat upper respiratory infections, stomach bugs, and the flu virus. It's also so pretty--fresh turmeric root gives it a bright golden color, and minced kaffir lime leaves dot that golden field with a deep, vibrant green. And did I mention it's delicious? Because it is.
|Finding all this laid out on the counter before I go to bed makes me feel loved.|
2 cups basmati rice
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
approximately 3 inches of fresh ginger root
approximately 3 inches of fresh galangal root
approximately 3 inches of fresh turmeric root
6 cardamom pods
2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1 large shallot (3-4 ounces)
3 large garlic cloves
3 or 4 whole star anise
3 lemongrass stalks
6 pandanus leaves
2-10 dried arbol chiles (or your favorite dried chiles)--Adam used 5 or 6 here; use more or less depending how spicy you like things
4 dried daun salaam leaves (also called Indonesian bay leaves, or sometimes Indian bay leaves)
one teaspoon sea salt
one teaspoon turbinado sugar
5 kaffir lime leaves (not pictured), plus more for garnish
2 whole chicken legs (about 1.5 pounds, not pictured)
One tablespoon of olive oil (not pictured)
Lightly smash the cardamom seeds using a mortar and pestle, or the back of a big knife, or bottom of a flat pan. You don't need to fully crush them; just press them enough so they've opened a bit.
Peel the ginger using the back of a spoon and slice it thinly.
Peel the turmeric using the back of a spoon and grate it with a microplane.
Peel the galangal, which is tougher than the ginger, with a knife or vegetable peeler, and slice it thinly.
Peel and mince the garlic.
Thinly slice the shallots.
Chop the dried peppers into small pieces, which makes it easy to separate seeds out. Discard the seeds unless you like things superspicy, in which case include them.
Tie a knot in each of the pandanus leaves; this makes it easier to find them and remove them after cooking
Lightly bruise lemongrass with a heavy pan (again, you're not crushing it; you're just squishing it some to release flavor) and cut it into manageable lengths
Lightly crumple the kaffir lime leaves in your hand--once again, you're just releasing their essence a bit, not breaking them apart.
Wash the rice and add everything to your rice pot except the chicken. Mix it all together well, and fill your rice pot about halfway full with water. Then heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet and brown the chicken on all sides.
Here you want to sort of bury the chicken in the rice mixture, so it's fully covered by rice and spices and coconut, then fill the rest of the pot with water. You could also substitute chicken stock for some or all of the water, but I prefer just water.
Now turn on your rice cooker, following the manufacturer's directions for cooking rice (or congee, if it has that setting). If you're using a pot on the stove, bring the mixture to a low boil, stir, cover and reduce heat to a low simmer for one to two hours, or until the chicken is fully cooked and the rice grains are losing their individual borders, releasing their starch, and reaching a creamy, rich consistency.
|I wish you could smell this picture.|
Serve your chicken rendang congee topped with minced kaffir lime leaves and the Sweet and Sour Cucumber and Carrot Pickle from Cradle of Flavor. (If you're even a little bit interested in Indonesian or Malaysian cuisine, or just generally expanding your culinary horizons, both Adam and I highly recommend this book. It's a favorite in our house; we've loved everything we've tried from it.)
|Sweet and Sour Cucumber and Carrot Pickle with Turmeric|
If you're wondering where to find some of these ingredients, many well-stocked Western grocery stores carry fresh ginger root, fresh turmeric root, and fresh lemongrass. Pandanus leaves and kaffir lime leaves can be found either fresh or frozen in many Asian markets, and daun salaam can usually be found in Asian markets too, in dried form.
|That's what I call a happy meal|