Thursday, December 9, 2010
Jook for a Cold Winter's Day
Last weekend my husband roasted up some delicious Cornish game hens. After we had stuffed ourselves silly, we were left with a few carcasses that still had attached to them a lot of delicious, hard-to-reach meat.
What to do with them? A hot bowl of jook immediately came to mind, prompted, I'm sure, by the cold winter weather that has hit the Northwest. Jook is a Chinese rice soup/porridge that consists of some very basic items: rice, liquid and any meats or vegetables that the cook wants to throw in there.
In Seattle, you can find jook (also called "congee" in some areas) at the more authentic Chinese restaurants. Some restaurants will offer it during their weekend dim sum service, pushing a large pot of plain jook around on a cart with bowls of sliced green onions and other accompaniments offered on the side.
There's no one correct way of making jook. When I was little, my mom would fill a large stockpot with rice, water, ground beef and finely shredded carrots, and feed the pretty, orange-tinged product to my toddler sisters. It was a nutritious, teething-friendly dish.
With my jook, I threw the game hen carcasses into a stockpot and added two cups of jasmine rice (short-grain white rice makes for a smoother consistency, but I only had jasmine on hand and it worked fine), two cups of water, about 6 cups of organic chicken stock, and three carrots, shredded. I simmered everything for about an hour (some of the liquid I added near the end when the jook looked a little dry), removed the bones/cartilage while leaving in the meat, and added a little soy sauce and pepper.
The resulting warm jook is flavorful, comforting and has a pretty carrot-orange tinge to it, just like my mom's concoctions. We've eaten it for breakfast in lieu of oatmeal, lunch, dinner, snack, etc. There's no wrong time to eat jook. Even my kids (who claim they don't like restaurant jook) have had a few bowls of this.
This would work really well with some white pepper and a few salty peanuts sprinkled on top, but we enjoy it plain, too. I think the big pot of jook will disappear soon, and then it'll be time to roast more birds.