Congee, or jook, is my comfort food. It’s simple, warm and cozy, and absolutely delicious. This version is also incredibly nostalgic for me, since it became a tradition in my family to make it with the turkey carcass the morning after Thanksgiving. Chinese households don’t like to waste anything!
At its core, congee is just a bowl of broken-down grains of rice. This makes it a perfect blank canvas, since you can really dress it up however you like. For some, congee is all about simplicity — my mom only likes to add a few pieces of squid or slices of fish to it. But I love all the accouterments: at my restaurant, Bonnie’s, we top our bowls of ginger congee with a peanut shallot crumble, pork floss, fresh scallions and cilantro, a jammy soy egg, and a yau ja gwai (Chinese cruller) for dunking.
But one of the best things about congee is that you can really experiment with whatever toppings you want. For this Thanksgiving variation, we’re utilizing every bit of leftovers, from the turkey carcass and last scoop of candied yams to scraps of green bean casserole and dregs of cranberry sauce.
My biggest tip for achieving congee with a smooth and delicate texture is to freeze your rice. (Also don’t skip out on rinsing your rice until the water runs clear!) When you take the time to freeze your rice for a few hours it allows the grains to break down before you even start the cooking process. This yields a far superior product and drastically cuts down on the cooking time: I promise that you won’t have to spend hours whisking it constantly (because who wants to do that the day after Thanksgiving?). In less than an hour you can have a perfect bowl of congee — and keep the holiday flavors alive all weekend long.
Thanksgiving Congee Recipe
Serves 6 (makes about 8 cups)
For the congee:
1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed
1 turkey carcass with any leftover bones
1 gallon water
1 (2-inch) piece ginger, julienned
Salt and MSG to taste
For the toppings:
Thanksgiving dressing or stuffing
Green bean casserole
French’s crispy onions
Literally whatever leftovers you want to clear from your fridge
Step 1: Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Shake off as much water as possible before putting the rice in a freezer-safe container. Freeze the rice for at least 5 hours. If you want to get a head start, you can rinse and freeze it the night before.
Step 2: While the rice is freezing, prepare the turkey stock. Put the turkey carcass and any remaining bones into a large pot with the water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a very low simmer for 4 to 5 hours. You can also start this the night before and leave the pot on a super-low flame.
Step 3: Remove the turkey bones and carcass from the stock, but make sure to leave any turkey meat that fell off the bones.
Step 4: Measure out 11 cups of turkey stock and add to a medium pot. (You can freeze the remainder of the stock for future use.) Bring the turkey stock to a boil and then gently whisk in the frozen rice. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk every few minutes for 20 minutes. Add in the julienned ginger and continue to whisk for another 15 to 20 minutes until all the rice grains have broken down into a porridge-like texture with no visible grains.
Step 5: Season the congee with salt and MSG to taste (this will vary depending on how you seasoned your bird).
Step 6: Top with the leftover Thanksgiving sides of your choice! Or enjoy the simple gingery turkey congee as is!