Chinese Turkey Jook (aka Porridge, Congee)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This is my fourth Thanksgiving here in NYC and truth be told, I'm feeling super homesick.

As I'm sitting here in my cold Manhattan apartment, watching the snow fall, I am dreaming of warmer California days spent with my family. My first two Thanksgivings here were made a bit more tolerable since I convinced my friends to allow me to preoccupy myself cooking in their slightly larger Manhattan kitchens for Friendsgiving.

It was during those two years that I learned to make my own Chinese Roast Turkey. One that I could only hope that makes my Uncle Mike proud. As much as I miss having the space to cook a good thanksgiving meal, I've come to realize this year that what I'm missing the most besides family is the Turkey Jook that I get to enjoy once a year.

You see, while Americans are using their Thanksgiving leftovers to make yummy turkey sandwiches (learned that from the Friends episode, "The One With Ross's Sandwich"), my Chinese family made sure to not waste any part of the bird. We transformed a used turkey carcass into a rich and velvety Turkey Rice Porridge, or Jook, as we say in Cantonese. The bones creates a turkey broth that's soaked up with broken down rice, a taste that lingers in my mind as it's more special to me than any traditional Thanksgiving dinner can provide.
I mean, just think about it, there's tons of restaurants who serves a decent turkey meal this time of year, but who's going to sell me the carcass that the turkey's carved from to let me make my jook? NO ONE. That's just a huge void that I won't be able to fill this year.

Anyway, instead of throwing myself a huge pity party, I decided to stop being such a brat and turn my homesickness to something more productive. I present to you, my Uncle Mike's recipe for what I deem as the ultimate morning after Thanksgiving meal. I hope you love this as much as I do and that this provides you with a taste of home if you too are spending it away from your family this year.

Chinese Turkey Jook

this recipe is adapted to fit in a 6-quart stock pot, if you have a larger 8/10-quart pot, add an additional cup of rice

2 cups uncooked white rice
1 roast turkey carcass, leftover meat attached
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon neutral oil (grapeseed, vegetable, corn)
water

optional toppings
leftover turkey
sliced scallions
chopped cilantro
white pepper
sesame oil

1. Soak rice in water. In your stock pot, add rice and soak in water for an hour. This process helps break down the rice a little and helps give your jook the velvety texture. After the hour's up, rinse rice.

2. Season rice. Once rice is rinsed, add the oil and salt. Mix well.

3. Add turkey & cook. Once seasoned, add all leftover turkey bones on top of uncooked rice. If there's congealed turkey juices, toss it in too. Fill with water so that pot is 90% covered. If you have a Chinese ceramic spoon, put it in the pot too. It will help stir the rice and congee as it boils - no plastic spoons the effect is not the same and you don't really want to cook plastic in your jook right? Put over medium-high heat, cover and bring to boil.

4. Crank out the flava. This part seemed less intuitive to me, however Uncle Mike insists this is how the traditional Chinese cooks their jook. Once it's brought to a boil, take the lid off the pot (so it doesn't boil over), and let it cook for about 40 minutes - 1 hour with a rolling boil. He said that's the secret of bringing out more flavor to the jook. It needs to boil on medium high heat and not a slow simmer as I would have thought. If you didn't have a ceramic spoon to your pot, stir your jook with wooden chopsticks about 40 minutes into cooking to make sure no rice has stuck to the bottom. This will be ready once the rice is broken down, in an almost milky consistency, usually an hour total.

5. Add toppings. Depending on your preferences, add whatever toppings that you want to your individual bowls of jook. I like to keep it simple with scallions and white pepper.

Additional Turkey Jook Tips: 
  • This can be made the same day after you carve your turkey, or the next day with refrigerated turkey bones. The more meat left on the bones the better since it will fall off the bone and into your jook. Also don't forget to add the neck bone, it gives some amazing flavor!
  • Try topping your jook with leftover gravy (made from turkey drippings) if you have any. Gives it some more flavor!
  • Do NOT add soy sauce. Soy sauce adds an unwanted sour taste when added to jook.
  • Don't overstir your jook. Once it's cooked, if you keep stirring/mixing the jook, the water and rice separates and doesn't taste as good. I'd rather scoop out portions of jook to microwave or to cook in a smaller pot to reheat than to recook the whole thing over and over again.

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