Sunday, January 4, 2015

On the First Day of...


Happy New Year!

We woke up on the first day of the year to a chilly morning and the lovely sound of... silence!  I swear there is nothing more comforting than silence after an explosive night!  A quick look at our street and I was pleasantly surprised to see it relatively clean, with most of the remnants of fireworks and firecrackers swept in small piles.  At 8 in the morning, there was no one outside at all (still sleeping off the effects of the festivities of the previous night, I suppose).

Ironically, though, considering I was the last one to go to bed the night before (everyone woke up right before midnight to witness the festivities), I was the first to be awake.  Force of habit?

Anyway, the first order of the day?  Breakfast, of course!

And what would be the perfect breakfast fare on a cold and chilly morning?  Congee!  It was hot and comforting, and convenient, because I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone by throwing in a whole lot of leftovers!  There was leftover lechon (roast pig) and shrimp from Media Noche, and I found the last piece of abalone mushroom.  There was a bit of chay po (preserved radish) also, initially intended for an omelette.

About a year ago I already made lechon lugaw, although the recipe for that one was not a recipe at all since I threw everything in the pot and did not measure at all.  This particular congee is similar to that one, that is to say, not made from scratch (using uncooked rice) because we also had a lot of cooked rice left over from Media Noche!   But this time, I measured the ingredients!

Here's how to make Lechon Lugaw (Roast Pig Congee):

5 thin slices of ginger
1 small onion, finely minced
about 2 cups chopped up lechon
about 6 to 8 pieces cooked shrimp
1 tablespoon chay po (optional)
1 large abalone mushroom, sliced
5 cups water (or more, depending on preference)
2-1/2 cups cooked rice
salt and pepper, to taste

Saute the ginger and onions until fragrant.  Add the chopped up lechon; stir fry several seconds.  Add the water and bring to a boil.  (At this point I usually add a bit of salt and pepper.)  When the mixture boils, add everything else, including the rice.  Stir every so often, to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Season to taste.  Add more water if desired.

The congee is done when the rice is mushy (I simmered and stirred the pot for about 20 minutes).  Add a splash of sesame oil before serving.

A final note - this is a very forgiving recipe.  It can be made with whatever is in the fridge.  I've made it with leftover roast chicken (lechon manok), leftover beef, leftover fish fillet, all sorts of balls (meat, crab, shrimp and squid), and once with leftover chopsuey (mixed vegetables)!  Even the condiments can vary - salt, soy sauce, fish sauce, whatever floats your boat.  What is important is the proportion of (cooked) rice to the water (or stock).  As a general (albeit personal) rule, I use twice the amount of water to the rice, which results in a medium consistency.  If we feel like having a thinner gruel, I add more water (gradually!).  The 2:1 ratio is by no means absolute, since the consistency also depends on the kind of rice used, because some rice absorb more water.  Simply put, feel free to experiment!

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