I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, partly because I could never think of something substantial-sounding, and I didn’t think I’d remember I’d made a resolution in the first place. When people spoke of their resolutions for the year ahead, they more often than not sounded lofty: give up smoking; do some volunteer work; read a book a week. On top of every other reason not to make a New Year’s resolution, I’m not moved by being challenged. That said, I did, quite unexpectedly, end up coming up with a resolution this year.
My sister, Janet, and I have shared a house in Callicoon for 20 years. We have always drained the pipes and closed the house for the months of January, February, and March, and are doing so again this year, but for the last time. This coming spring we are moving to Sullivan County full-time. But I digress. Or am I doing the opposite? Anyway, every December and into the first week of January, we eat our way through the freezer, fridge and pantry in preparation for the upcoming hiatus, and I make many dishes that are tried and true favorites.
I cook lacy potato pancakes with the last few potatoes I keep cool in the basement, and we eat them with homemade applesauce, which takes care of the final apples in the cooler bin, or with crème fraiche and salmon roe, left over from New Year’s Eve. I bake boneless chicken thighs in a tangy Asian marinade and then shred the meat into a Chinese rice porridge called congee, a thick, creamy soup perfect for a snowy day. And I finish off the last of the milk by making a giant puffed popover of sorts called a Dutch Baby. Traditionally, it’s eaten with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar, and it makes a unique breakfast or brunch course.
As of late, as I am working on preparing these stalwarts each weekend, it dawned on me that I haven’t tried a new recipe in a long, long time. And lo and behold, my New Year’s resolution was born. Come this spring when we return to the country, I am going to regularly attempt a new dish. I’m not going to get caught up on promising the god of resolutions that it will be a weekly occurrence, but I have nearly 200 cookbooks, some of which I haven’t cracked open since I purchased them, and I believe I’ll find a load of dishes that pique my interest. Until then, here’s to the few old favorites that will, so to speak, be put on the back burner for a time.
Congee (rice porridge)
In place of the chopped chicken thighs I use in the soup, I have often substituted roast pork, duck, or cooked shrimp. Sautéed cremini or reconstituted dried porcini mushrooms would be a nice choice too.
1 cup short grain rice (I use Italian Arborio or sushi rice)
8 cups chicken broth or water
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons minced ginger
12 shitake or cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 recipe for teriyaki boneless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped (see recipe at right)
2 scallions, finely chopped
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Asian toasted sesame oil
Rinse the rice under cold running water in a colander. Put the rice and the broth in a large heavy saucepan. Add salt and stir. Bring to the boil over high heat, uncovered. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer very gently for 1 – 1 ¼ hours, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, sauté mushrooms on high heat in a bit of oil until cooked through. Set aside. When mixture is a thick porridge, stir in the ginger, cooked chicken (if using) and mushrooms. Heat through. Serve immediately garnished with scallions and cilantro. Pass the soy sauce and sesame oil for guests to drizzle on their soup.
Teriyaki boneless chicken thighs
Serves 2 – 3
This chicken is perfect chopped coarsely and added to any Asian-inspired soup or noodle dish.
1 – 1 ½ pounds boneless chicken thighs, opened and flattened slightly
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine) or sherry
1 garlic clove, sliced
1-3/4” piece of peeled fresh ginger root, grated or minced
2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
Mix all ingredients except chicken and oil in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add chicken pieces and let marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 6. Heat a stove-top grill or large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and heat until almost smoking. Add chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, and cook until colored and firming up, 3 minutes. Flip over and cook for an additional 3 – 4 minutes until cooked through. Remove from heat and serve immediately or at room temperature.