and a drizzle of soy sauce.

Congee – Chicken Porridge

As the new year approached, we started searching for chicken porridge recipes. They were all similarly easy to put together, but they also all called for long grain white rice. We like white rice but we also wanted our version to be more healthy, so we substituted the white rice for brown basmati rice. The brown rice gave it more fiber and the basmati lent a nutty taste to the porridge. We also like mixing grains whenever we get the opportunity. Our morning oatmeal will sometimes have polenta, quinoa, or whatever small amount of grain or seed we have on hand. So with the basmati rice we included steel cut oats, a traditional morning staple and just regular wheat.

This dish also cooks a lot longer then regular oatmeal or rice, about twice as long. The rice breaks down into a mush like consistency. The result is a savory morning, afternoon, or evening treat. The batch that we made was too much for just the two of us so we froze part of it. We now  look forward to  coming home after a morning run to find a thawed batch of the porridge sitting on the counter from the night before and all that is required is a quick reheating of the porridge, a couple poached eggs, and a few chops of the knife for the condiments to bring this yummy dish back to life.

Congee — Chicken Porridge
(Serves 6-8)

1 whole chicken (organic preferred)
1 small cinnamon stick
few whole allspice
small handful of whole peppercorns
1 star anise
1 inch knob of ginger (peeled and sliced into thick rounds)
3-4 carrots, scrubbed clean and cut into 2-inches
2-3 celery stocks, cut into 2-inches
1 large shallot, cut into large chunks
1 gallon of cold water, or more to cover the bird
1/8-1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cups brown basmati rice, or other long grain rice (not instant)
2  cups steel cut oats (not rolled oats), or other whole grain, or a combination
3-4 chopped green onions
small bunch chopped cilantro
Chinese donut, cut into pieces (optional)
soy sauce
sesame oil
Sriracha and other hot sauce condiments

Put the chicken, vegetables, and spices into a large stock pot and cover with cold water, about a gallon, and add the soy saucePut the stock pot on the stove and over medium heat cover the pot and allow the water to come to a boil. Once the water is boiling turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 1 hour. Turn the heat off and remove the chicken. It will probably be falling off the bones. Strain the stock and discard the vegetables and spices.
Return the stock to a clean pan and add the rice and steel cut oats. Over a medium heat bring the broth, rice, and oats (and grains) to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook slowly stirring occasionally for about 2 – 2 1/2 hours. During the last half hour you’ll want to stir more frequently to avoid scorching the bottom. This can be done the night before, covered and finished the next morning.
In the meantime, when the chicken has rested and cooled, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and shred the meat with your hands. Careful to remove all cartilage and gristle. If you’re eating the congee right away, add half to all of the chicken— depending on the size of the bird and the amount of meat. If you’re cooking the congee the night before, refrigerate the shredded chicken and add to the congee the next morning.
Serve in warmed bowls with chopped green onions, cilantro, Chinese donuts, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and Sriracha or other hot sauce.

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The Cheese Soufflé.

Sauce Béchamel: Cheese Soufflé

We’re egg eaters. We eat a lot of them. Lucky for us, we also love a good sauce béchamel. Béchamel is one of the “mother sauces” in French cooking (Hollandaise is another). It is the base white sauce from which many other sauces are created. Adding cheese to béchamel creates sauce Mornay, another classic sauce. Béchamel, Mornay, or Hollandaise can be served over asparagus in the spring,  over poached eggs for Eggs Benny (or Benedict),  on top of bread with vegetables or ham ala croque monsieur and can also be used as the basis for a gratin in the cooler months. And at anytime of year, we love it folded with fluffy egg whites and shredded cheese then baked into a toasted cloud. Poof, it’s a soufflé.

It took us years to take the soufflé plunge. We didn’t talk about it, but soufflé recipes seemed overly complex. But once we figured out just how quickly béchamel comes together – 10 minutes max – and how easy it is to hand whip egg whites, the rest of the work of a soufflé seemed a snap.

While simple enough, a soufflé requires that we all pay attention to a few little details to ensure that a lofty puff of pillowy custard comes out of the oven. The right sized cooking dish, properly beaten egg whites, a tasty base sauce and a hot oven are all that is required for soufflé success. If there is one soufflé rule etched in stone, however, it is that a soufflé waits for no one. It must be eaten piping hot and straight from the oven, served at the table in its baking dish.

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Cheese Soufflé Recipe:

Béchamel Sauce:
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 onion, skin and roots removed
1 bay leaf
1 clove
5 black pepper corns
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp flour
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg

For the soufflé:
5 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup grated cheese (Gruyere, cheddar, Parmesan)

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the béchamel sauce:

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk with the onion, bay leaf, clove and peppercorns.

While milk is warming, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is completely melted, and before it browns, add flour and whisk thoroughly making sure no lumps form. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until lightly browned in color.

Strain warmed milk and pour into roux while whisking, again being careful not to let lumps form. Grate a tiny amount of nutmeg into the sauce and salt to taste. Cook, whisking regularly, until sauce thickens, approximately 2 – 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set-aside until ready to use. At this point the sauce bechamel is complete and can be used many different ways.

To complete the soufflé:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Position the oven rack to the lowest setting.

Using a 2 quart soufflé dish and butter and coat the interior with two tablespoons of shredded cheese, fit the soufflé dish with a buttered baking collar made of parchment paper. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl with a hand-held wire whisk (OK, or in your KitchenAid stand mixer or with a hand-held blender) until they just begin to foam. Add a pinch of cream of tarter and a pinch of salt. Continue beating until whites form glossy peaks being careful not to overbeat.

Whisk the egg yolks into prepared béchamel sauce.

Fold one cup of the egg whites into the béchamel and egg sauce until just mixed. Pour the sauce into the bowl of whipped egg whites and gently fold until just mixed. While folding, sprinkle remaining grated cheese into the batter.

Pour soufflé batter into prepared dish. Set dish on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the top is a deep brown, 30 – 40 minutes, depending on the shape of your dish. Test the soufflé with a skewer, it should be clean.

Serve the moment it comes out of the oven by digging into the top at the center using two serving spoons. After all, Soufflé waits for no one.

with a great crumb.

Irish Soda Bread

It’s that time of year again when green is the color du jour and everyone, including your pappy, is attempting to talk with an Irish brogue. Yep, it will soon be St. Patrick’s Day. Time for drinking Guinness and Irish whiskey, eating corned beef and cabbage, and let’s not forget the Irish soda bread. This quick and easy bread can be whipped up in no time.

Make it first thing in the morning with cranberries and orange zest to enjoy with your coffee and Bailey’s Irish Cream, or make a savory loaf with caraway seeds and raisins to go with a traditional stew. However you celebrate this spring holiday, just remember soda bread doesn’t have to be made just in March. Enjoy the bread year round when you want a simple and quick homemade bread without the hours of waiting.

Irish Soda Bread

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour, or graham flour (alternately, you can use all all-purpose flour)
2 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon butter, room temperature
3/4 cup + 1 teaspoon buttermilk
2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Irish Whiskey

Optional: 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel, 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, 1/4 cup golden raisins, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, or other small dried fruit

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange peel or caraway seeds, if using, whisk together. Add butter and, using your finger tips, rub together until small crumbs form. Add raisins or other dried fruit if you are using them.

Mix together buttermilk and 2 tablespoons Irish Whiskey, stir well. Stir into dry ingredients only until moistened. Turn dough out onto floured surface (dough will be sticky) knead briefly.

Shape into round loaf and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Flatten loaf slightly. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, cut a cross in the top of the loaf. Mix 1 teaspoon Irish Whiskey with remaining buttermilk and brush the top of the unbaked bread with the mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or until golden and bread sounds hollow when thumped on bottom. Cool bread on wire rack. Cut into wedges and serve slightly warm.