I like rice. Risotto, pilaf, fried, sticky, brown, even plain white rice but what rice do I make for breakfast? I then remembered that Dim Sum restaurants sometimes serve congee, sometimes called jook (pronounced joke), a tasty rice porridge. This rice dish is the ultimate Chinese comfort food. Because it is very easy to digest, it is fed to children, older people and those people who are sick although without a lot of seasoning. In the Dim Sum restaurant version I am familiar with is usually flavored with chicken, mushroom, garlic, ginger and a unique Chinese ingredient, a thousand year old egg (a preserved egg made by curing the egg in a curing mixture for ten days). For my version I will flavor it with a regular egg, cheese and breakfast sausage to make a American breakfast version. To make our version more special we can make our own sausage, but to save time you can use store bought. It just is not as good as fresh ground and homemade.
For the sausage -
1 pound freshly ground pork
2 cloves minced garlic
4 or 5 fresh sage leaves finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh finely chopped thyme
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
For the congee -
3/4 cup long grain rice
1/2 pound cooked crumbled sausage
sweet onion diced (about 2 cups)
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped thyme
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tablespoon fish sauce or sub anchovy paste
salt and pepper to taste
2 to 4 eggs
2 chopped scallions
For the sausage -
1. To 1 pound ground pork add minced garlic, thyme, rosemary, sage, red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and fry a small bit in a skillet to test for taste and seasoning. Using your taste add more seasoning if needed and retest. When you are satisfied with the taste form into patties or stuff into casings if you wish. Makes 4 large patties or 6 smaller.
For the congee -
1. In a large saucepan sauté the sausage and crumble into pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add the onion and garlic into the saucepan, season with salt and sauté in the rendered fat until the onion start to turn brown. remove to the bowl with the sausage.
2. In the saucepan, toast the rice for 2 to 3 minutes then deglaze with the water. Add the remaining ingredients except the eggs and scallions and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the rice breaks down adding more water if the mixture becomes too dry.
3. Before serving, add two to four eggs and cook until the whites are solid. Serve with a garnish of freshly cracked pepper and chopped scallions.
Recently I stopped at a large Oriental market and found some ripe sweet mangoes and decided to serve them with sweet sticky rice; one of my favorite simple Thai recipes. How could I make this a breakfast dish with contrasting textures? The answer is granola to supply the crisp texture. Add some fresh in season fruit and top with whipped cream to complete the package. The anchor is the sticky rice, a sweet short grain rice that cooks to a slightly chewy texture and add in coconut milk and sugar for that authentic Thai flavor. I decided to start with muesli and add extra nuts and dried fruit then add honey to create my own granola. For fruit I used local in-season strawberries I got from my local farmer's market and fresh whipped cream to complete my Thai inspired breakfast. Use the freshest fruit available for the best results.
Note: You can use your own favorite granola recipe or in a pinch your favorite
I have a couple of announcements; first, I'm going to concentrate on a breakfast and brunch theme to better explain translation and second; I'm working on a book showcasing these concepts within the framework of breakfast. More on that later. Continuing on the Translation subset of substitution, I was reading Fuchsia Dunlop's new cookbook, "Every Grain of Rice - Simple Chinese Home Cooking" with the idea of adapting a Chinese home-style dish for breakfast. I found a recipe for stir-fried eggs with tomato and thought this would be the perfect recipe to show that substitution could be used to enhance a dish. The recipe is basic, perfect for the novice home cook; season and stir-fry the eggs first, then the tomatoes and then combine them together thickening with potato starch if needed. I wanted to add additional flavor to the dish, so I added fresh basil which always goes with tomatoes (Thai basil would even be better) and some five spice powder to enhance the anise notes and to reinforce the Asian theme. I know that I'm not actually making a true substitution, but adding something. The point is to use translation as an avenue to explore exciting new creations to become a more creative chef.
4 - 5 large eggs
4 - 5 firm Campari tomatoes (or another simular small vine ripened tomato)
4 - 6 basil leaves rolled and cut into thin ribbons (chiffonade)
1 pinch five spice powder
1 pinch sugar
2 - 4 Tbsp. cooking oil
slurry of potato starch and water (optional for thickening)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat a wok and add half the oil. Beat the eggs with 1/4 teaspoon salt and scramble the eggs until just barely done. Remove and reserve. Roll the basil leaves into a cigar shape and with a very sharp knife finely slice into thin ribbons. Slice the tomatoes in half then each half into three wedges. Clean and dry the wok, then heat it on high and add the rest of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the tomatoes, season with the sugar, salt and pepper to taste and stir-fry until they are hot and fragrant. Add the basil, five spice powder and the eggs back to the wok and stir-fry until mixed together. If the mixture is runny add the potato starch slurry and mix until thickened. Serve immediately to feed two.
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How does a good chef think? What is the creative process a
chef uses to come up with new and exciting dishes? What do I need to know to enable that creative process? These are the questions I want to explore in this series of articles. As a chef and an avid cookbook collector I am drawn towards
ideas and techniques of cooking rather than just a collection of recipes. I believe to grow as a chef, I need to continually learn and hone new techniques along with perfecting each technique I use every day. Whenever I go to a restaurant, whether fine dining, neighborhood pub, avant garde, or even fast food, I continually ask myself how can I do this better, what works and more important, what doesn’t? Feel free to send me comments, ask questions. Together, we can explore and make creative cuisine.
Spending almost thirty years in the computing field, I was able to travel experiencing a wide variety of tremendous cuisine. First I became a foodie, and when the opportunity arose, I was able to attend culinary school following my passion. I work as a part-time private chef and volunteer time at the community café in North Bend Oregon providing affordable meals in a restaurant setting to my community.