Congee: Stretching the Cheap into Super-Cheap!

Rice is cheap. Cheap is what we’re about here. It’s also going to cool off in a few (several?) weeks, which is when I start cooking in earnest. Breads, soups, curries, casseroles; I’m an equal opportunity carbohydrate-pusher.

Congee is something I came across several years ago, during a stretch of what we’ll call a dual-sabbatical time, and it’s a perfect lunch. It’s cheap as all get-out, and uses up leftovers that might otherwise go unappreciated.  I’d forgotten about it until I saw this post by a fellow Austin food blogger:


photo from Smoked Salt & Pepper

Look how beautiful this dish is! And how nicely she photographs her lovely meal! I need a class or something.  Or maybe new counters? It’s probably the counters throwing me off.

Congee is a rice porridge. “Porridge? Isn’t that for children in Dickens’ novels and nursery rhymes?”–I can hear your skepticism even through the internet, Cheepsters.  It is those things, but it’s also an excellent idea for you.  It’s as simple as it gets, it’s cheap, and you’ll never have to run out to the store to get something to make it, because it’s all in your house already.

Basically you cook rice with way more water than usual until the grains blur into each other. Yes, blur is the technical term we’ll be using here. You can use stock if you have some. You can start with cooked rice, and it’ll take a while.  If you don’t have any cooked rice, start with uncooked rice, and it’ll take longer. Happily, it doesn’t need attention at this point as a polenta might–bring it to a boil, set it to low and let it simmer.  I stir mine now and then and add more liquid if it needs some.  When it’s pasty it’s done.

That’s it. You made congee. Good for you!

It’s a bit dull at this point, though, so now is where you open the fridge and find the leftover roast pork, some soy sauce, and a few cilantro leaves. Then it looks like this:


If you’re like my friend up there, you top it with marinated soft-boiled eggs (yum!) and fried tofu.  Today, mine will get leftover chicken and vegetables.  Tiny, who thinks everything should have ‘shaky cheese’ , puts parmesan on hers.

Congee is agreeable to whatever you want and have in the fridge. Pickled onions and pulled pork? Sure. Leftover stir-fy? Why not. The weird end of pot roast that nobody wants?  Dice that up with a few garlic chives and call it lunch.


$10 Dinner, Coming Up

Summer is my favorite season for meals. It’s so easy to just…not cook. Most of the summer we grill meat and I chop some vegetables. Maybe.  Not that I don’t love me some soup, casserole, and the occasional complicated thing from Marcella Hazan, who doesn’t?

Summer meals can have a certain simplicity that I look forward to as the days warm up.

 Cheep, Easy Summer Dinner!

Cheep, Easy Summer Dinner!

For example, this meal involved boiling corn, grilling chicken, and slicing a few things.  A twenty minute meal that costs $10 (seriously, it’s exactly $10. I triple checked) and feeds the five of us and has leftover chicken? 

Cheep Cheep!

  • chicken             $5.52
  • blackberries      $1.54
  • avocados          $0.84
  • corn                   $0.60
  • tomatoes           $1.50

All of this was from one store, HEB, except the basil which was from the front yard.  Everyone had things they liked, and I’ve got chicken bones and skin for future projects.

What, you don’t render chicken skins sometimes when you’re bored? Just me? Ok. I’ll just be over here bagging up chicken skin.

If you’ve got a cheap summer meal you love, please share! I love hearing what other folks are eating.  When DH and I are apart, if he’s eaten a meal the first thing I always end up doing is a food quiz. Where did you eat? What did you order? Was it good? Did anyone else have something good?

Poor guy. I should probably work on my people skills.  In the meantime–did you make a good dinner? What was it? 

Cheep Cheep!