Millet Poetry

my photo. my fault.

my photo. my fault.

So I’m hoping to make millet bread sometime soon. The goal is a corn bread style thing. Ironically most dishes like this, even when they feature millet, have corn in them too.  This I find extremely baffling.  Suffice to say, mine won’t.  Stay tuned. Probably I will have time around the week after New Years. (EDIT: this was written a long time ago… this article is already published.)

I know I haven’t pubbed food in a while. I suppose that being busy writing is no excuse. 🙂 Documenting cooking projects takes a remarkable amount of time because I’m the world’s slowest cook. There is no way I’d be able to compete in any contest. I can always come up with something tasty, but it takes me an extra hour to get anything done.

So I may as well leave you with a slow cooker recipe. 😉

Millet Congee

Let’s be blunt.  Congee is an innocuous sounding Chinese word for gruel. Unless you have very strange (what are the odds?) or very young, or very sick children,  gruel isn’t going to appeal very much. The thing is, in case you didn’t notice the many articles here about gluten free breakfast cereal–four or five on GF oats alone– I’m kind of obsessed with warm, slurry like comfort food. Congee is just an excuse to have hot cereal for dinner. I’m fine with that.

There are days when I just want food, I want it hot, and I want it tasty, and I frankly don’t care if it looks appitizing or not. I have other days when I simply won’t eat unless the food is awesome, and that’s when I have to put on my apron and do something impressive. Is it any wonder why I now keep the camera near the kitchen?  Hrm. Maybe *that’s* why I haven’t been cooking lately.  🙂

The benefits of gruel are as follows. As long as you can get the people to be okay with it, (what? I thought you said pizza!) you can feed a lot of people VERY cheaply on this. Millet is currently about $2.50/3.00 per pound, and you only need half a cup of the stuff, in four cups of water.  Use the classic recipe and you have spent less than three dollars for 8 servings of food– at least. It’s very filling.  Then you add… stuff. Pretty much whatever won’t get spoiled by cooking in a slow cooker for a short run.

Well, short for a slow cooker.  This means about two hours on high or four hours on low (I recommend the first hour on high then the last three on low) you get a rich creamy gruel that blows rice congee out of the water. Yes, rice gets thicker and smoother, but I like a bit of tooth (not TOO much). In my experience, and rice cooked out that much gets… epic bland.  Millet won’t be much excitement on it’s own, I grant, but it does have flavor. This is especially true if toasted. It smells…soooo yummy. 

Also, you can just put it in the cooker and forget about it until the timer goes off. Bonus for writers on a budget. It also works well for when you are sick, or if you have a sensitive day and you absolutely need to have something innocuous. Millet is considered one of the least allergenic foods on the planet. It’s good for people who are nauseous, or sick with a touchy stomach and can’t keep down most other food.

Heck, monks in the 12th Century raised it special for situations like that. In case you think they were backward, these monks also first diagnosed syliac disease.   It’s also good for fussy kids who demand bland food. With the sweet potato melted in the pot, it adds sweetness, color and *gasp* nutrients.  The slow cooker keeps them in, because the vapors are trapped.

The classical treatment from our friends from the East. This recipe comes from China. I have heard it’s a big hit in Taiwan, up to and including lunch trucks serving the stuff on street corners. There they use it toasted, with a handful of toasted chestnuts, thinly sliced sweet potato (about a cup–so one small one or half of a medium sized sweet potato sliced thin) and you can feed a brood for a day or yourself for several.  

Toss in a stick of cinnamon, a few pods of cardamom (spices in a bag! Eating cinnamon splinters is not fun!)  before cooking. When done, serve with a dash of salt,  honey, coconut sugar, or maple syrup, and a pat of butter or virgin coconut fat.  Trust me, the fat makes it.  In some moods just the coconut fat and a bit of salt is all you need.  The recipes I have read don’t call for salt.  

I always put a bit on top when I dig in. 

There are other variations too, that revolve around using broth instead of water, adding about a half to three quarters of a cup of meat (duck breast with beef broth in my case) I still add the nuts (walnuts) and some mushrooms. This variant I serve on top of finely shredded cabbage, green onion and a shot of coconut aminos.  Sriracha or other classical condiments are not amiss either.  I have also used beans of various types as a substrate, generally mixed with sauteed kale. This way, more nutrients and protein. Good for penitential or meatless days.

Other people can put cheese in it, too. Let it cool for a bit and it’s like Chinese grits.  Which is awesome.  Dayia also works in a pinch.

My next experiment is going to use my secret slow cooker weapon– smoked turkey tails. They are like ham hocks only even better.  They are cheaper, for one, and you can find them at the meat market/grocery in the frozen chitlins isle in big bags.

All you need is one– maybe two if you are feeling luxurious. It adds a stocky element in the form of a bit of fat and collagen from the connective tissue.  You also get the meaty smoky element because there’s lots of little morsels of meat which reminds me of pig leg from Pho– only it tastes like the platonic ideal of smoked turkey bacon. It’s glorious.

That’s what I do for slow cooked “baked” beans, too.  I have nothing against pork! In this case, I like the flavor for it’s own self, and the kindness to cholesterol is an added bonus.

 

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