For Chinese New Year 2015 I was supposed to bring a potluck dish to the annual gathering of families who'd all traveled together in China when we adopted our kids. It was only a few days out and I'd run out of ideas - and didn't want to grab take-out on the way to the event. Then inspiration struck as I stood in the produce section of my local Asian supermarket: beautiful, fresh green leeks...
I had never cooked with leeks before, but knew they were in all sorts of East Asian dishes, so I grabbed a stalk and got to slicing at home.
After soaking and rinsing the leeks to get sand and dirt out, I sliced the stems into 1/8" thick coins. Apparently you can do amazing "onion" rings with these guys, but that wasn't going to be on the menu. What to cook, what to cook... None of the families had done congee yet, and when I'd tried it at home in my rice cooker, I wasn't satisfied with the results. After reading six different recipes that all disagreed about the water-to-rice ratio, I averaged them out and improvised a bit to get this:
- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 standard-sized leeks, washed, ends trimmed, and sliced into 1/8-inch coins
- 1 cup sausage, kielbasa, or meat of your choice, chopped
- 4 medallions sliced fresh ginger
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4 cups water
Toppings to taste:
- Chopped cilantro (don't be shy about it, take a good handful)
- Sliced green onion
- Pickled ginger (VERY authentic)
- Crushed peanuts
Combine the leeks, meat, ginger, broth, and water in your slow-cooker and set to medium heat; give it at least an hour for the ginger to infuse its goodness. (Alternatively, you could use 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger, but make sure it's fresh.) Once the ginger has done its work, fish it out of the broth.
Meanwhile, rinse and drain the rice. Mix with salt and oil, then let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse gently and drain again; you want some of that smoky goodness of the sesame oil to stick. Add the rice to the broth.
Reduce heat to low, and let it cook overnight - the longer the better!
The guests at the New Year's party literally ate the entire pot. It was not TOO thick, had a pleasant savory feel, and the leeks - which had virtually dissolved - weren't oniony at all but had a fresh vegetable aroma that reminded us of oncoming springtime. Definitely a hit, and will make again for guests or weekend snacking.