I lifted the idea of using Arborio rice to make a variation on congee, a Chinese rice porridge, from Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year. The topping, however, is all my own. When faced with a mountain of Thanksgiving leftovers, I thought back to that rice porridge recipe and knew that turkey congee was going to be my new post-Thanksgiving tradition.
Make turkey leftovers feel like something new
I love Thanksgiving turkey leftovers just as they are – a repeat of the best meal of the year. But I also love variety and I can’t resist making the comforting flavor of seasoned, roast turkey into something new.
And although I promote this recipe as a great solution to Holiday season leftovers, my humble rice porridge recipe is a comfort food I like to make throughout the winter. In fact, I think this might be one of my all-time favorite turkey recipes.
You don’t need to roast a whole turkey to make this Arborio rice congee. You can just roast a breast or a couple of thighs, depending on whether you prefer light or dark meat.
A congee recipe made with Arborio rice
I want to make clear that although this recipe is inspired by traditional congee, it is not a classic, Chinese porridge recipe. Congee is typically made with long-grain white rice, or similar. It is slow-cooked until the grains break down to make a creamy, almost pudding-like consistency.
What is Arborio rice?
But for this recipe, I use the rice cherished in Italian cooking. Arborio is a short-grain rice variety. You probably know it best as the rice used in risotto. It’s very starchy rice that tends to get quite creamy in texture when cooked. (If you want to learn more about arborio, The Spruce Eats breaks it down very well in this article.)
With risotto, the goal is to create a creamy dish but maintain the firmness at the core of the rice. That gets tricky. But when you make congee with the rice, the cooking is simplified because the goal is to create a super creamy, comforting porridge.
Now that you’ve mastered making my Western version of creamy rice porridge, you need toppings. Traditionally congee is served with an assortment of condiments. You should put each condiment in its own bowl so that everyone can make their congee exactly the way they like it. I recommend a bold assortment of Eastern and Western flavors that blend well together, including:
- Shredded, cooked turkey meat (both white and dark meat, substitute with chicken for a chicken congee)
- Shredded carrots
- Dried cranberries
- Chopped, salted peanuts or cashews
- Sliced green onions
- Freshly grated ginger
- A bottle of high-quality soy sauce
I find the creamy comfort of Arborio, the rice used in risotto, to be a really nice base for serving turkey leftovers. (Note that you can use this recipe with chicken leftovers, too!) To it, I add the sweet bite of dried cranberries (which are also aphrodisiacs. Read more about what makes cranberry a food of love.).
The addition of the cranberries gives my congee rice porridge the same sweet/savory interplay you get from a Thanksgiving dinner.
Combine with the crunch of salty peanuts or cashews – which are, of course, aphrodisiac, it makes a surprisingly sensual, simple dish. Best of all, it’s comfort food but one made from a collection of healthy ingredients. What more could you ask from a winter meal?
Instructions for making this a vegan congee
Although the star of this recipe is roasted turkey, you really don’t need the turkey to make a great winter Arborio rice porridge. In fact, you don’t need any animal products at all. To make vegan rice porridge, make the Arborio with vegetable stock instead of turkey stock.
You can make it this way if half the diners want meat and the other half prefer a vegetarian congee. Then simply omit the turkey topping for those who want a vegan meal and load up on the flavorful vegetable toppings. And perhaps even add an extra pinch of fresh ginger for an extra, warming zing of flavor.
Just a quick note for those on other special diets, arborio rice is gluten-free. And the toppings are easily adjusted for those with nut allergies or other intolerances. Enjoy!
Turkey Congee With Cranberries
- 9 cup turkey stock
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- 1 cup roast turkey meat shredded or chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 lg carrot shredded
- 3-4 scallions sliced into rounds, both white and green
- 1 tbsp dried cranberries chopped
- 1 tbsp roasted salted peanuts or cashews, chopped
- fresh ginger for grating
- high-quality soy sauce
- Add the stock and arborio rice to a stockpot, cover, and bring to a boil.
- Stir and turn the temperature down to a simmer. Simmer covered for one hour, stirring occasionally.
- While the congee is cooking, prepare the toppings. (My suggestions are above but feel free to omit any or add others you prefer.)
- Scoop the congee into bowls and top with your favorite ingredients. Grate ginger over the top to taste and add a shot of soy sauce before serving.
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