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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Steel Cut Oatmeal – In a Flash

Walnuts, bananas, strawberries, and milk cover the bowl of oatmeal.

We’ll never understand how anyone older than 8 years old would want to eat, let alone like, those packets of sugary instant oats. Maple and Brown Sugar (really, twice the amount of sugar), Apple and Cinnamon (dehydrated apples—yuck!), Peaches and Cream (makes me want to hurl). Sure they’re quick. Sure they’re easy. But being quick and easy is just a cop out. They are loaded with sugars, they contain very little fiber, and the ones that claim to have fruit in them are usually the ones no one wants to eat anyway. Why not do just a little bit of prep so that you can enjoy some relatively quick, easy, nutritious, and might we add, delicious steel cut oats?

Right now you’re saying: “I don’t have an hour to cook and stir. I’m in a hurry.” Nonsense! With just a little preparation the night before, steel cut oats can be ready and on the table before you decide which packet of sugar-laden oat powder you want to feed your children, or yourself, in the morning.

Quick Steel Cut Oatmeal
Serves 2

2 cups water
pinch of salt
½ cup of Steel Cut Oats

The night before, boil water in a sauce pan. Add the salt and steel cut oats. Turn the heat off and place the lid on top. Let stand overnight. The next morning, turn the heat back on to low medium and in less than 5 minutes the oatmeal is done.

Now for the fun part – the toppings and additions: diced up fresh fruit such as pear, apple or banana (we even love to add pomegranate seeds when in season), dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, blueberries, etc.), toasted nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.), spices of your choice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, etc.), and warmed milk (we like whole milk as a rule). If you need to sweeten your oats, drizzle a little honey at the very end or, if you have it, REAL maple syrup, agave nectar, or even a sprinkle of brown sugar.

There are no good excuses for relying on those tasteless, artificial, nutritionally worthless envelopes. We’re confident you’ll agree that steel cut oats beat the instant stuff any day.