Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bring Me Your Poor Huddled Masses


“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”
- Mother Teresa (1910-1997)
           
           Omnieater is tired.  In a fit of fashion-frenzy, I decided to wait overnight at H&M for Lanvin, but in my sleep-deprived haze, I saw Emma Lazarus. "Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”  I was the poor huddled mass freezing in a 35°F degree rainstorm.  I wanted my mommy.  I wanted... rice porridge...ummmmm
            For the full Asian Thanksgiving experience, you gotta have rice.  I think they take away your Asian license if you don’t. Actually, rice should be THE Thanksgiving food.  Most of the world’s population has rice-based cuisine.  I don’t know if the Pilgrims had stuffing, but from my readings of Colonial history, bread wasn’t happening.  Neither were potatoes (potatoes are of South American origin).  Wild rice, however, was probably around.  And if it’s rice you want, rice we have.  Long grain, medium, or short grain. Sweet or plain. Black, red, brown and white. Jasmine, Basmati, Tex-mati, Japonica, Arborio, Carnaroli, Valencia, wild (which isn’t even really a “rice,” biologically speaking)…on and on.
            So instead of the usual bread based stuffing for Thanksgiving, I’m making a sticky rice stuffing.  Most of the ingredients are readily available at Asian grocery stores.   Sticky rice requires overnight soaking, but that is all the advance work you need to do.  The rest of the recipe can be made Thanksgiving morning. 
            And what is a Thanksgiving without cranberries?  But instead of some gelatinous glop, I am making the Kim family cranberry relish – cranberry relish with ginger and wasabi.   It will clear anyone’s sinuses.
            And regarding Thanksgiving, Mother Theresa was right.  It is hard to bring love into one’s home.  But you can always start with a cup of rice.

Sticky Rice Stuffing
            Sticky rice is a short-grained rice, akin to sushi rice (but NOT sushi rice).  It is often called glutinous rice or sweet glutinous rice and can be found in most East Asian/Southeast Asian grocery stores.  There is also black or white glutinous rice.  You can use either for this recipe, even though the black looks more dramatic - and I like drama.

Servings: 8 cups (enough for a 12 –14 pd. turkey and a little more)
3 c. sticky rice
10 dried Chinese black or shitake mushrooms
4 Chinese sausages, diced
1 c. of roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped (you can find these vacuum-packed in Asian grocery stores)
2 tbs. neutral vegetable oil
1 tbs. ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 c. rice wine (You can also use Mirin or dry sherry)
1 tbs. soy sauce
1 tbs. oyster sauce
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 c. stock (vegetable, chicken or turkey are all fine)
salt and freshly ground pepper (white pepper if you have it)
chopped scallions and/or fried shallots (condiment often used in Vietnamese cooking)

1.     Soak rice in cold water, with about an inch to cover.  Soak for 6 hours or overnight. 
2.     Next morning, soak mushrooms with hot water for at least 30 minutes.  When softened, coarsely chop mushrooms, omitting stems (the stems are too tough to eat).
3.     Drain rice and rinse with cold water.
4.     In a Dutch oven or heavy stockpot, heat oil over medium high heat.  Stir-fry garlic and ginger, until fragrant, but not browned.  Add sausages and sauté until slightly browned.  Add rice and sauté until rice is coated with grease.  Add mushrooms and briefly stir-fry. 
5.     Add stock, wine, soy and oyster sauces, sesame oil, and pepper.  Adjust seasonings (you can either use more soy sauce or salt for this).  Stir thoroughly and add chestnuts.  Bring to a simmer.
6.     Once simmering, turn heat to low, and cover pot.  Allow rice to cook, undisturbed (no peeking!) for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, rice should be fully cooked, but if it seems dry, add some water or stock to the pot. 
7.     Stuff into turkey and roast accordingly.  If not stuffing into turkey, remove pot from heat, stir rice gently, replace lid and sit for 10 minutes more.
8.     Serve with chopped scallions and/or fried shallots.  Turkey gravy ain’t bad either.

Ginger-Wasabi Cranberry Relish
            If you have an old-school food grinder, this is a great recipe.  You can also use a Kitchen-Aid mixer with a food grinder attachment or a food processor.  If you do use a food processor, do not over-process, otherwise you get mush.  Also, you can adjust both the sweetness and the spiciness to your liking.  My family likes it with almost no sugar and all heat, but then again, we’re Koreans. 

Yield: about 21/2 cups
2 c. washed raw cranberries
1 skinned and cored tart apple (granny smith is fine for this, but try to go local)
2 in. chunk of raw ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 to 2 c. sugar (see note)
1 tsp. or more of prepared wasabi (see note)
1/2 tsp. salt
1.     Grind together cranberries, apple and ginger in a food grinder.  If using a food processor, pulse ginger to a fine mince first, then add cranberries and apple.  Do not over-process.
2.     Mix in sugar and salt.  Use 1 c. to start and add more to taste.  Mix in wasabi.  Start with 1 teaspoon and add more to taste.
3.     Let mixture rest for 45 minutes or until the sugar dissolves completely in the relish.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
Note:   I usually use brown sugar (any kind is OK), because I like how the caramel/molasses notes balance the spiciness and acidity of the relish.  But regular granulated sugar is fine as well.

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