12 days of congee

Congee (or xifan) is my go to winter comfort food — it’s super easy and quick to make, and it’s highly versatile and customizable. So when the weather turned cold and I had the urge to make some, I thought it would be fun to riff on the toppings and see if I could come up with at least 12 different variations. Here are the results (and here’s the Twitter thread, if that’s more your speed):

The toppings, from left to right, top to bottom:

  1. Shitake mushrooms, thousand year egg, spicy fermented bean curd, furikake, sesame oil, and scallion (which covered EVERYTHING)
  2. a la Mulan: two fried eggs and bacon. But then I added a bunch of furikake. And then more fermented bean curd and scallions (not pictured) before eating.
  3. Vietnamese meatballs, shitake mushrooms, furikake (I was very much on a furikake kick.)
  4. Braised turnip greens, Italian sausage, katsuo fumi furikake (a different kind this time!), and scallions
  5. Sauteed purple cabbage, fermented bean curd, scallions
  6. Roasted kabocha squash, gochugaru, soy sauce, sesame oil
  7. Kimchi, thousand year egg, katsuo fumi furikake, scallions
  8. Chinese sausage with onions and collard greens, pickled radish, fermented bean curd, shiso fumi furikake (I bought so many varieties…)
  9. Not made by me, but a variation I had when visiting my mom in Houston. Congee made with red bean, black rice, and white rice, then topped with a little brown sugar. With a side of youtiao.
  10. So beige. Scallions, fried garlic, fried shallot, rousong.
  11. Ground pork and mustard greens, fried shallot, duo la jiao
  12. Scallions, fried garlic, a poached egg, and lao gan ma

Var 1 is pretty classic, and I really enjoyed 7, 8, and 9. The Mulan variation was fun to make, but difficult to eat. The roasted squash variation was the most different of the bunch (I have been very into roasted squash this season), and I think it looks the most interesting.

Main lesson? You can never have enough scallions. Or enough variations of furikake.

spicy cheddar sourdough crackers

I’m always trying to find ways to use leftover sourdough starter. There’s a lot of discard after a feeding, and it seems like a waste to just throw it away. I’ve made pancakes, muffins, and pizza dough. But by far, the quickest and easiest thing to do with sourdough starter discard is to make crackers.

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Spooooooooooooky.

I’ve posted a pic of the crackers already–they had ghoul faces for spooky food potluck. They are a huge hit with anyone who’s tried them so far. I’ve had a few people ask me for the recipe, but the problem with my recipes is that they are all nebulous and “to taste” and “by eye.” I did my best to record some actual amounts for this one though, and since I went to all the trouble anyway, I figured I’d share the recipe with you too.

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croissants, pt 3

Since there’s no way I can keep eating six croissants each weekend without literally dying, I froze half of the last batch of croissants I made. Stuck them in the freezer on a quarter sheet after shaping them, then stored them all together in a freezer-safe Ziploc bag. I was curious whether or not they would hold up, but then, you can buy perfectly good frozen puff pasty, so worth a shot.

I’ve discovered that the ambient temp of our kitchen makes it so that proofing baked goods takes at least twice as long as expected. Last time, when I made croissants, I proofed them overnight after taking them out of the fridge for approximately eight hours (in an off-oven to protect from croissant-stealing cats), and they still seemed a little under-proofed. Which seemed ridiculous, but pastries don’t lie.

Anyway, all that lead up to say, Adam and I forgot about the frozen croissants for about a week and rediscovered them last night. We set some out at around 6p to defrost and proof overnight so we could have them for breakfast.

Then we forgot about them again.

I went to go make lunch for myself, started making some tea, and then thought OH SHIT THE CROISSANTS.

They had been proofing for something like 17 hours at that point. SEVENTEEN HOURS. They had developed a bit of a skin, but actually looked okay? So, needing lunch anyway, I baked them up, and they turned out… surprisingly well.

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The edges are a little dark, but that’s never stopped me before. Nom.

They caught a bit, because I was distracted by reading a book, but the structure of the interior was the best it’s been so far. Still not perfect (nothing’s perfect, of course), but much more airy and open and honeycombed than previous batches.

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Yeah, look at that crumb structure.

Here’s to happy accidents, I guess?

pawpaw pepper sauce

Pawpaw season is here again! Our kitchen is once again overrun by this delicious and short-lived fruit.

(At some point, I should probably give a little rundown of what pawpaws are since most people aren’t familiar with it. Add that to the list of things to do…)

When we first moved in, I made a large batch of pawpaw butter, which I then handed out to family and friends. Last year, we were not particularly prepared, so we just processed a lot of the fruit and froze the puree. This year… This year, I have PLANS.

I gave a whole mess of fruit to a friend last year and he made a delicious pawpaw liqueur with it. It was sweet with some ripe fruity notes, but finished like buttery caramel. I want to try my hand at making it. I started an infusion today using frozen puree, and I’ll do another one with fresh. I’m curious how they’ll compare and how the puree holds up with storage.

But since it looks like we’ll have a lot of fruit again this year, there’s still room for experiments. So today, I made a pawpaw pepper sauce.

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Peppers for days.

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croissant, the first

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I made croissants for the first time this weekend! They ended up being underproofed, womp womp. But the good thing about baking trial and error is that your errors are often still pretty tasty, and these were no exception. You can’t go too wrong with butter and dough.

The recipe I used this go around came from The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer and Martha Rose Shulman. It was a pretty straightforward, two-day affair. I found croissants intimidating before because they seemed involved, but there isn’t too much active time. Most of the time was resting and chilling.

This was also my first attempt at laminated dough, and it wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. I should have let the dough warm up just slightly before rolling and cutting and shaping, because the butter was a bit too cold and cracked during that final stage. And my folds weren’t as neat as they could have been.

I’m prepping for another attempt this upcoming weekend. This time, I’m using Dominique Ansel’s recipe from Masterclass (if you’re curious, here’s a referral link). This one requires prepping a levain, so I started that process as well. I’d never made a fermented starter of any kind before, so that in of itself has been fascinating.

I can feel the mild obsession creeping in. A flurry of baking approaches.

bscotch shenani tarts

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Made vegetable tarts the other night, mostly to use a summer squash that had been languishing in the fridge for nearly two weeks. It wasn’t on purpose, but they ended up being in the Butterscotch Shenanigans colors of purple and gold.

Made up of summer squash, purple potatoes, caramelized onions, pesto (with almonds instead of pine nuts because I didn’t have pine nuts on hand), and brie on puff pastry. Sprinkled with some tarragon.

mezcal+kombucha

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Hot weather means afternoon cocktails. This one was made with mezcal + kombucha + mint simple syrup. Garnished with mint, a grapefruit twist, and a tiny bit of salt.

We were trying out interesting kombucha flavors, and had half a bottle of GT’s summer edition Unity kombucha, which has flavors of cherry, coconut, and lemongrass. Mezcal was a joven mezcal from Creyente.

kimchi jjigae

I’ve had a craving for Korean food ever since the March issue of Bon Appetit showed up on my doorstep.

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NOMS.

So over the weekend, Adam and I rounded up the ingredients to make kimchi jjigae, a stew made with Korean red chili flakes (gochugaru) and red pepper paste (gochujang), and most importantly, kimchi. From what I understand, the make-up of this stew is flexible outside of the kimchi (it’s in the name after all).

I used the recipe by Sohui Kim from Bon Appetit as a base, and added a few more vegetables. The chili pepper flakes and paste aren’t overtly spicy, despite the glorious orange-red color of the stew. I also found that the kimchi I used was salty enough that I didn’t need any additional salt.

You can follow the link to get all the details. Here are the changes I made:

  • Increased all the amounts so that I would have lots of tasty leftovers
  • Added diced daikon and some baby bok choy
  • Added baby bella mushrooms —  next time, I would use shitake, which would hold its own a little more readily against the strong flavors in the stew, but I forgot to buy some
  • Used bacon, but I would use a thicker cut of pork belly or some pork shoulder in the future
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It’s not the prettiest stew ever, but it is forking* amazing.

The result was a bowl of warming, funky deliciousness that was perfect for a rainy weekend. And a cloudy Monday. And a chilly Tuesday. And… well, you get it.

*Adam and I are finally watching the Good Place.