The Christmas bug hasn’t found me yet. In fact, my (temporary) holiday blindness is so severe that I’m already thinking about January. Never mind December.
Starting the new year is a big deal for a lot of people in Hawaii, and the way to do it is with a clean slate: a swept-out house, a checked-off list, and a sparkling refrigerator and pantry.
I figured it would take me about a month to eat my way through the accumulated stores of my kitchen, so I started the day after Thanksgiving, with jook.
Jook (or rice congee) as I know it is a nourishing and beautiful food. It’s a soup made from cooked rice and (in Hawaii) leftover turkey bones, and garnished with fresh greens–maybe Chinese parsley–and hot, garlicky chili sauce. When I think of eating jook, I think of a hot bowl after swim practice on a winter evening.
As the rice cooks and breaks down, it turns the turkey stock into a silky (almost mucosal) broth. I didn’t have any old rice, but I had a lot of leftover quinoa pilaf with chickpeas. When life gives you quinoa.
The day before Thanksgiving, I had scored a $5.00 bag of smoked turkey thighs at Whole Foods, in the meat department’s bargain bin, tipping the scales at well over two pounds. The bones and skin went into my slow cooker, and yielded a smoky, spicy stock that I poured over the quinoa and brought to a simmer.
That was it. Before eating, I threw in some cold shredded turkey and let it warm through. Purple Thai basil, hot sauce, green onions…. done.
I don’t go to evening swim practices any more (it’s been almost ten years!) but I had a long Saturday morning in the water, after which a hot cup of jook was just the ticket to fill the stomach and clear a little space for the fast-approaching new year.