Saturday, November 28, 2009
Turkey Leftover Congee Recipe
Wait! Before you throw out that turkey carcass from the Thanksgiving massacre, there's something delicious and detoxifying that you can use. Annually, my mom would take the leftover bones from the roasted turkey and make a Chinese style congee for the morning after Thanksgiving. It's clean, healthy, and best of all, it doesn't weigh you down like the dinner from the night before.
Since this was the first Thanksgiving I spent away from my family, I had to deal with the turkey leftovers myself. I called my mom, and got a cryptic and rather sparse answer for making turkey congee. That said, I will try to elucidate it as much as possible, but the truth is, there are so many varying factors that need to be considered. Plus the recipe is hard to mess up, and easy to tweak to your preferences.
It all starts with Thanksgiving dinner. In my family, there are always turkey leftovers. Carve out most of the turkey meat leaving the bones and whatever meat is stuck and not worth pulling off. You can either freeze the entire turkey and make the stock in the near future, but our family always makes the congee for the morning after. Put the turkey bones into the biggest pot you can find. This year, the turkey actually protruded out of the pot, but it's no big deal. If you can, fill the pot up with water to the level of the turkey. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 1-3 hours depending on the size of your bird body.
I simmered my turkey stock uncovered out of necessity, but I don't think you need a lid anyway. Eventually, the connective tissue broke down and I was able to break up the bones enough for the entire body to go into the stock. I don't give a specific cooking time because it really comes down to taste. You know you're ready when the turkey umami permeates the stock. Don't salt the stock yet though.
Put a few cups of rice into another pot. I used two cups this year which made 2-3 servings. Ladle the stock into the rice pot and bring to a simmer. Making congee is much easier than making rice; when in doubt, just add more water. Just keep in mind what the ultimate consistency should be like, and just cook the rice until it reaches that certain al dente. Chinese congee can range in the degree of viscosity. Just add more stock as the rice soaks up the liquid. I also picked through the bones for bits of meat with a big pair of chopsticks. At this point, everything was falling off the bones. The turkey was finished, completely unrecognizable.
As the rice finishes, you can decide to add more stock if you'd like. But this is the point where you add salt to taste. Spoon the congee into bowl and serve your grateful family. Usually we garnish we some white pepper and eat it simply. After all, this is a detox from Thanksgiving dinner. But this year, my congee was a little Japanese inspired and we garnished with an umeboshi pickled plum, shichimi seven spices and nori sheets of seaweed. Sesame is also an option, but congee is a blank canvas. Add whatever you'd like.