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Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Lamb Congee (imagine a savory rice porridge and you're pretty much there)

Illustration for article titled Lamb Congee (imagine a savory rice porridge and youre pretty much there)

Sorry I’ve been away a while, things are kinda nutty at Casa Butt Pocket these days. Also, I counted recently and I’ve posted about 30 recipes on here over the last few years and even while there are some I rarely, if ever, use anymore; that’s a pretty solid repertoire to play with and alter in subtle ways that don’t really necessitate a whole new post or even an update to the old one. HOWEVER!! There have been some new things I’ve been noodling around with that I’ve been planning to post once I felt I did them well enough to recommend my methods to anyone else. This is one of them*.


One of the people I cook for pretty much every day has recently started having issues with chewing and swallowing, so my wife and I have been making a lot of soups and looking into other things that go down the hatch as easily as possible. If done right, congee is a really good thing to have on hand at any given time because it’s basically halfway between solid and liquid and you can flavor it however you want. I might do a separate recipe for chicken congee because there are some fundamental details that make it really different from the lamb version. Congee is a good way of making sure that even if a person gets bored with the texture, there’s still enough variety of flavor to keep it enjoyable rather than a chore.

This version is optimized for ease of eating; so if you’re making this for somebody because they’re having trouble eating then by all means follow it to the letter. If you’re making it just because it sounds good then you can replace the onion and garlic powders with 1 small onion (or 1/2 of a large one) and a couple cloves of garlic both chopped to whatever size you like best thrown into the meat pan and sauteed on low in the oil with a dash of salt and pepper until the onions start to turn clear, before you put the meat in the pan. You also don’t have to worry about breaking the meat up as much.



1 pound of ground lamb
2 cups of long-grain white rice (we use calrose), washed
8 cups (2 normal-sized containers) of lamb broth
2 cups of water
2 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons (divided into 1-tsp portions) of garlic powder
1 teaspoon (divided into halves) of onion powder
1/2 teaspoon of your favorite spice mix (I’m partial to Kroger brand “Zesty mix”, but I’m aware different grocery chains carry different spices. Any mix that adds a good “dark” (I don’t have a better way to describe it, that’s the best word that comes to mind right now), savory/umami note to the dish works)
2 green onions, finely chopped, for garnish



In a large (at least 4 quart) pot; combine the broth, water, rice, a dash of salt & pepper, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, and your preferred savory spice mix. Heat on high until boiling, then turn down to medium/low for a lively simmer. Stir semi-frequently (more so as time goes on) to make sure the rice on the bottom doesn’t scorch and the whole thing cooks evenly, for about 45 minutes or until most, but not all, of the liquid is either absorbed or evaporated.


Slight side-note: I recently found out that what I always considered to be simmering was actually a low/medium boil. I thought that boiling meant full-on crazy bubbling and simmering was the more controlled but still constant bubbling. Apparently, an actual simmer happens about 20 degrees Fahrenheit below boiling temperature and mayyyybe one bubble per second actually breaks the surface of the liquid. This might not seem like much, but imagine cooking temperatures as different degrees of squeezing. 20 degrees over time can mean the difference between gently heated ingredients whose flavors marry over time until the final meal tastes like the feeling of snuggling a happy, purring cat; and a lump of shit that’s had the life choked out of it until it’s a dead husk of its former self, like Donald Trump’s heart. All this is to say: If you made the same mistake as me; simmer this one dish like you might normally think you should, but any other time you see that word in a recipe maybe turn the burner dial down a notch or three.

While the rice is cooking, heat the oil in a separate pan over medium heat and add the ground lamb, salt & pepper, and remaining garlic & onion powders. Break up the lamb with a spatula (or your hands as you add it to the pan) as much as possible, though the closer to fully-cooked it gets the easier it will be to break up. When all of the meat is browned, leave it sitting in the rendered fat so it soaks some of the fat back up, but use a slotted spoon for serving so you don’t take a pool of the fat with you to the bowl/plate.


Once the rice is done, combine your desired portions** of the congee and the meat in a bowl or on a plate with sauce according to your preference (I’m a fan of 1:1 soy sauce and fresh lemon juice, which is kind of a simplified and slightly modified version of ponzu sauce, which you can probably find bottled in the Asian section of your local supermarket), garnish with green onion, and enjoy.

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