Chef Tim Ma’s Breakfast Congee

Breakfast congee bowl by Chef Tim Ma (Photograph by Reema Desai)

Breakfast congee bowl by Chef Tim Ma (Photograph by Reema Desai)

CHEF TIM MA’S CONGEE

Chef Tim Ma knew one thing: When he designed the brunch menu at Kyrisan, his restaurant in Shaw, it would feature a version of congee, the go-to Chinese comfort breakfast. “It’s essentially a rice porridge that you see a version of in other cultures too,” he explains, “but for us it’s a common breakfast that we eat starting plain as little children or babies. We make it savory using chicken, pork and other meats and you can develop real flavors. But it’s up to you, it’s so versatile. Congee can be as simple or as complicated as you want. For example, in Taiwan it is served plain, just rice and water, and all the accouterments are served as toppings. This is one of those things to make ahead and you have breakfast ready for the week.”

Ingredients

  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 ounces sliced ginger, skin on
  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • ½ cup cured pork belly
  • 1½ ounces black truffle shavings (or substitute a drizzle of truffle oil)

Garnish

  • 1 package natto beans (found in Asian markets)
  • Pickled ginger
  • Sliced scallions
  • An egg yolk for each serving
  • Duck confit (optional, and you can buy prepared)

Pork Belly Cure

  • 16 ounces pork belly, skin off
  • 2 cups salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup ground Szechuan peppercorns
  • ¼ cup ground star anise
  • ¼ cup ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ cup ground cloves

Cure the pork belly for at least 2 days by rubbing Pork Belly Cure over entire pork belly. Braise the pork belly in oven at 275°F for 2 hours, then turn oven up to 400°F for last ½ hour of cooking, to caramelize the top. Let the pork belly cool down, then place in refrigerator to chill. Once cold, slice pork belly into lardons. (You’ll have extra pork belly, which will be great in stir fries, fried rice or soups.)

To prepare the congee, in a large sauce pot combine the oil, Szechuan peppercorns and ginger and simmer for 20 minutes to infuse flavor. Strain the oil and throw away the peppercorns and ginger. Add the pork belly into the pot with the strained oil; cook on high heat for 2 minutes, until the belly is slightly browned, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

Add jasmine rice and cook on high heat for 2 minutes, until rice is translucent. Add all of the chicken stock and black truffles and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until all of the stock is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and white pepper and garnish away.

This appeared as a recipe feature with two other breakfast bowl recipes which can be found here.

Roasted Spring Onion Tops

  • 1–2 bunches of spring onions (or large green onions with robust tops) 
  • Olive oil 
  • Sea salt

Heat oven to 475°. Cut the tops into 1-inch pieces and place them in a bowl. Toss them with a couple of tablespoons of good olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and spread out on a cooking sheet. Roast until very crispy and brown, about 12–15 minutes. Serve in bowls for snacking or toppings for soups, sandwiches, tacos, etc.  

Greens and Rice Gratin

(Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman, New York Times) 

This dish has become our standby for using greens from the market. If we’re pickling beets or using turnips in a stew or salad, we save the greens for this delicious casserole—which is as good cold for lunch as it is warm. And funny enough, some friends who don’t care for beets love the greens. If you don’t have beet or turnip greens handy, spinach and kale also work. 4–6 servings. 

  • 1 large bunch greens (beet or turnip, stemmed and washed) 
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped 
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced 
  • Salt to taste 
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried thyme 
  • 3 eggs 
  • ½ cup milk  
  • Freshly ground pepper 
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 
  • 1 cup cooked rice, arborio rice or Calrose rice 
  • 3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (½ cup, tightly packed) 
  • ¼ cup breadcrumbs  

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease a 2-quart gratin dish with olive oil or butter. Blanch the greens for 1 minute in a large pot of generously salted boiling water. Rinse with cold water, squeeze out water and chop medium-fine. Set aside. 

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes, and add the garlic and salt to taste (about a teaspoon). Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, so that the garlic starts to lightly brown. Stir in the cooked greens and the thyme and toss. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Remove from the heat. 

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. Add ½  teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Add the cayenne or a dash of hot sauce. Stir in the greens mixture, the rice and the cheeses and mix together well. Scrape into the oiled baking dish. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top. Drizzle with about a tablespoon of oil. 

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until sizzling and lightly browned on the top and sides. Remove from the heat and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before serving.