Chicken Congee With Turmeric and Cumin
This dish, which was created for the 2019 NYT Food Festival by Tyler Heckman, the executive chef at Ferris restaurant in New York, combines his interest in Cantonese cooking with his affinity for the flavors of New York City street food — specifically, the chicken and rice plates sold from halal carts. Congee is a rice porridge popular in China and among other Asian cuisines, and this version is heavily spiced with cumin and turmeric, which lend a golden hue and an earthy flavor. If you haven’t made congee before, you might balk at the high ratio of water to rice, but give it time, and the rice will break down until creamy. Spiced chicken, tangy yogurt and a punchy blender hot sauce add texture, richness and brightness to the dish.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 1teaspoon neutral oil
- 3cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
- 1cup jasmine rice, rinsed
- ½peeled white onion, cut into 2 wedges
- 1 ½teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 ½teaspoons ground cumin
- Kosher salt
- ¾cup plain yogurt
- ⅔cup mayonnaise, preferably Kewpie brand
- 1tablespoon za’atar
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1cup chopped jarred roasted red bell pepper
- ½cup Crystal hot sauce
- 1tablespoon Champagne vinegar
- Kosher salt
- 5tablespoons olive oil
- ¼cup ground turmeric
- 3tablespoons ground cumin
- 2tablespoons ground cardamom
- Kosher salt
- 2pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Julienned iceberg lettuce
- Diced tomato
Step 1Prepare the rice: In a small skillet, sauté the garlic in oil over medium-high heat, until deep golden brown all over, about 3 minutes. Transfer the garlic to a large lidded pot, and discard the oil. Add the rice, onion, turmeric, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt and 10 cups water to the pot and bring to a boil over high. Reduce the heat to medium-high, partially cover the pot with a lid (two-thirds of the pot should be covered) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice breaks down and the soup is thick and creamy, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove and discard onion and garlic, if desired. Season congee to taste with salt, remove from heat and cover. (Makes about 7 cups.)
Step 2Meanwhile, prepare the yogurt sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise and za’atar. Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to a squeeze bottle or a spouted measuring cup, and refrigerate.
Step 3Prepare the spicy sauce: Add the roasted bell pepper, hot sauce and Champagne vinegar to a blender and purée until completely smooth. Season with salt to taste, transfer to a squeeze bottle or a spouted measuring cup, and refrigerate.
Step 4Prepare the chicken: In a large bowl, whisk 4 tablespoons olive oil with the turmeric, cumin, cardamom and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Add the chicken thighs and toss to coat. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast-iron pan. Working in batches, cook the chicken thighs over medium until a golden crust forms on each side, 6 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board, let rest 5 to 10 minutes, then thinly slice the chicken crosswise.
Step 5Divide the congee among wide, shallow bowls. Top with the chicken, lettuce and tomato, then drizzle with yogurt and spicy sauce. Pass additional sauces at the table so guests can adjust creaminess or heat level according to preference.