Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chicken Porridge 닭죽 (Dahk-Jook)

Dahk jook is one of my favorite meals because it reminds me of my mama; oh, and it's delicious, especially when the crisp fall weather starts to roll in. It could be cumbersome to make because the traditional recipe says you have to deal with a giant chicken but I make it with my own shortcuts so it's easy and low-maintenance.

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken thighs (3 or 4 thighs)
8 cups water
10 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt (1 teaspoon for the stock, 1 teaspoon for the chicken)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 scallions, chopped
3 cups sticky white rice (sushi rice)
First, begin by rinsing and soaking the rice. Soaking the rice means it will cook faster all the way through the center without becoming overly mushy. And even though this is porridge, we don't want it to turn into a paste-like mess. The rice grains should still resemble rice grains in the end.
Next, trim all the excess fat from the chicken. I use kitchen shears because it's easier. You might be surprised at how much fat you end up trimming off the meat. All that stuff will not be clogging your arteries.
Then, put the chicken in a pot with the 8 cups of water, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Let the broth come up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. While it's simmering, use a spoon to scrape off any fat and foam that comes up to the surface. If you trimmed the chicken well there shouldn't be an overwhelming amount of skimming that needs to be done. Once the broth is skimmed, return the heat to medium high and let it boil furiously for 1 hour. The broth should reduce by a little less than half by that time (there should still be about 5 or 6 cups of broth left in the pot).
After an hour of furious boiling, fish the pieces of chicken out of the stock and shred it using two forks.
Now this is where the method's a little different for people. Some moms return the chicken to the broth and keep it stirred in with the porridge and then they offer "dipping sauces" to serve alongside the porridge, e.g. soy sauce with scallions and/or a mixture of salt and pepper. However, my mom would season the chicken and place it on top of the porridge so that's what I do. Mix the shredded chicken with the chopped scallions, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. The chicken should be a little saltier and pepperier (is that a word?) than you'd want it to be if you were eating it alone. It's eventually going to get stirred into the porridge, which is barely seasoned, so go a little heavier with the salt and pepper.
Set the chicken aside and move onto the rice. Drain the rice (which has been soaking for 1+ hour) and add it to the broth. Give it exactly two stirs with a spoon, place the lid on the pot, make sure the heat is on low, and then walk away 12 minutes.
After 12 minutes, remove the lid. There should be about 1 cm of liquid sitting on top bubbling away. Give the rice a stir (just once around the perimeter of the pot) and it it should look as if that extra liquid just disappears and you should see all the rice and garlic. The porridge should have a nice consistency - enough liquid to make it a little soupy but not so much liquid that it's drowning the rice. If it's too runny, let it cook for a bit longer.
Serve porridge in big bowls and heap a bunch of the seasoned chicken on top.
To eat, stir the chicken in to incorporate the seasoning into the porridge. And notice that you can still see the grains of rice. It's not a mushy mess.
And then enjoy! But be careful because this stuff is HOT.
And here's the recipe page for your convenience:

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