Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Of Food Hangovers and Turkey Wings

If you are lucky at Thanksgiving dinner, one carnivorous soul will live out his caveman fantasies by taking ownership of a hulking turkey drumstick.  But what of those pesky wings?  Finding a taker to pick finicky strands of dark meat out of the turkey wing is a bit of a challenge too often leaving the wings behind in the pile of Misfit Thanksgiving Food bound for the garbage bin.

A couple of years ago I woke up with the inevitable Day-After-Thanksgiving food hangover looking for a breakfast that would simultaneously soothe my tummy and potentially use up some leftovers.  It was then, as I stared at a bag of plain white rice contemplating a comforting bowl of porridge, that I finally found a use for those misfit wings: congee.

Ubiquitously served for breakfast in China as well as at dim sum restaurants across America, congee is simply a porridge made of rice and water.  This bland breakfast food turns out to be not only the perfect dish to stage a morning after recovery, but also a great way to use up some leftover turkey bits, like wings, in the process. 

The porridge cannot be simpler- water, rice, and a bit of salt simmer for a very long time until the rice bursts, transforming the water to a milky soup.  Congee doesn’t taste like much, that is, until you add to it.  The Chinese like combinations of pickled vegetables, ham, and omelet usually with a fiery chili sauce to crank up the flavor.  For my purposes after Thanksgiving, the turkey wings do all the hard work.

Turkey wings turn out to be the perfect flavoring for this long cooking porridge.  Throw a couple of uneaten wings into the pot with the rice and water, over the next 90 minutes the porridge is flavored with a rich turkey taste.  As for those pesky bits of meat on the bone?  They naturally fall off during the cooking process mixing in seamlessly with the slowly dissolving rice.  A little garlic chili sauce and maybe a sprinkling of green onions and the bowl is good to go, for breakfast, lunch, or even a late night snack.

In my kitchen, turkey wings, once confounding for being nearly inedible find new life the day after Thanksgiving in a bowl of congee.  It is like grandma’s chicken noodle soup for exhausted stomachs, if my grandmother was Chinese and had some turkey wings lying around.

Turkey Wing Congee
Time: 90 minutes
Yield: 6 serving

¾ cup short grain white rice
8 cups water
1 tsp Kosher salt
2 turkey wings plus other miscellaneous turkey bones if desired
Sliced green onions
Soy sauce
Garlic chili sauce

Bring rice, water, salt, and turkey wings to a boil in a large pot.  Reduce heat to a low simmer.  Partially cover with a lid.  Cook stirring occasionally over the first hour, then frequently during the last 30 minutes.  Rice kernels should burst and the porridge should have a thick, milky consistency.  Remove the bones.  Any pieces of meat that didn’t naturally fall off during cooking can be removed at this point and added back to the pot.  To serve, ladle congee into bowls and let each person add soy sauce, sliced green onions, and chili sauce as desired. 

Amy Powell is a food and travel writer based in New York City. She is a graduate of Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and the French Culinary Institute. Follow her on Twitter @amymariepowell

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