Go ahead, eat a second Thanksgiving. Heat everything up and enjoy your plate of desiccated turkey with flabby stuffing and watery Waldorf salad. Or double down on that mile-high sandwich crammed to the gills with mayonnaise and cranberry sauce. There’s no shame in it. I’ll just be over here with my wonderfully warm and comforting bowl of congee, feeling totally satisfied yet quietly virtuous. Because there’s only so much cheese and pie and bourbon I can consume in one weekend without spiraling down.
But wait—congee? Since when does that quintessentially Asian dish make an appearance during this quintessentially American holiday? Made with turkey stock and garnished with chunks of the leftover bird, it’s a perfectly literal representation of the melting pot that is this country.
Nearly 20 years ago, I was privileged to spend Thanksgiving weekend at the home of Millie Chan, a legendary Chinese cook who taught for years at New York City’s 92nd Street Y and published a popular tome on kosher Chinese cooking. The morning after the big feast, she served us a breakfast of congee, for which my gratitude—to this day—knows no bounds.
Overnight, she had simmered the turkey carcass with onions and aromatics to make a deeply flavorful stock. Then she strained and defatted this and combined it with a relatively low proportion of long-grain rice and some fresh ginger, cooking it gently to the point of collapse. Bowls of this pale, fragrant porridge were garnished with shredded leftover turkey, a smattering of sliced scallions and a nutty pour of sesame oil. Light, nourishing and delicious.
Versions of congee are eaten around the world and are known by many other names, including buburayam (Indonesia), canja (Portugal), ashure (Turkey) and juk (Korea). This easy meal has both sweet and savory iterations that can be enjoyed at all hours. Yes, that means you have permission to add leftover cranberry sauce and a drizzle of maple syrup, but leave out the pumpkin pie spice, OK? Thank you.
1 cup long-grain rice
8 cups turkey stock (substitute vegetable stock or water)
1 teaspoon salt
8 coins of fresh ginger
1 dried arbol chile
4-6 dried shiitake mushrooms
Optional garnishes: cooked shredded turkey, sliced scallions, cilantro, freshly grated ginger, sesame oil, fried shallots, toasted sesame seeds, chili flakes, crispy turkey skin
Rinse the rice in several changes of cold water. Place it in a large pot with stock or water and salt, bring to a boil and stir. Add ginger coins, chile and shiitakes, then reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until it turns the consistency of oatmeal, about 1 3/4 hours. Check occasionally and stir often during the last half-hour of cooking.
Remove mushrooms, thinly slice and return to the pot. Season to taste with soy sauce or additional salt. Serve topped with the garnishes of your choice.
[For more holiday inspiration from Laura Silverman, see this week’s insert, The River Reporter’s Holiday Gift Guide.]