Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Supper - Claypot Chinese Sausage and Rice

Spring-like weather made a brief tantalizing appearance last weekend here in the Midwest. We all breathed a sigh of relief that only a cruel February mistress would teasingly allow. Winter bitch slapped us right back to seasonal reality with an rain/sleet/ice mix of a storm followed by more snow. The sun apparently has taken up residence elsewhere, leaving only rainbow of dirty whites and muddy grays, all made soft and fuzzy by a heavy dense fog. Something was needed to push back at that heavy depressing fog. Trying something new, by cooking with a method that's really old. Clay pot cooking.

My weekend wanderings can often find me poking around any number of non-English speaking Asian grocery stores, playing a never ending game of "what the heck do you do with this?". My favorite store has numerous shelves filled with all manner and size of clay pots. They were beautiful in their simplicity. I bought a small one and went on a quest on how best to put this to use for me. It was one of my other purchases that led to this Sunday Supper.

chinese sausage

Sweet Chinese Sausage. Worlds apart in flavor from our normal tubular meats, this sausage has a mild sweetness I enjoy. A quick google search turned up a good recipe to start with, Clay Pot Rice with Chinese Sausage over at Serious Eats. But before we even get to the recipe, a couple of things to keep in mind when you're cooking in clay pots. No extremes. If you take your pot from a hot environment immediately to a cold environment, you're going to end up with pot shards and a mess on your floor. Your pot has to heat up slowly so only put it in a cold oven and let it preheat along with your oven. A heat diffuser wouldn't be out of the question if your pot is going to sit on the stove for a while. And never take a hot clay pot and put it in the refrigerator or cold water. The other thing you need to do is soak your clay pot. The clay pot retains the water and when it reacts with the heat of an oven or flame, it steams whatever you have contained in the pot. Now that we have the basics down, time to cook. Sauteed the sliced sausage in the pot, removed the slices and toasted the rice in the small amount of fat the sausage released. Added the slices back, along with some pre-cooked tofu, vegetables and small amount of ginger.

ricesausage cooking2

Added some chicken stock, brought it to a boil, turned down the heat to a gentle simmer, popped the lid on and let the steam do all the work.

clay pot on stove

rice-chinese sausage

Forty minutes later you get a fragrant rice dish that gut checks winter right back the north where it belongs. The sweetness of the sausage has fused into the rice with an exquisite flavor. Not much else is needed except maybe the pungent counterbalance of some fresh green onions. Now there's one more bonus to clay pot cooking, especially when you cook rice. That's the crust. You see when you cook rice with this method if your timing is good your rice will develop a golden crunchy crust on the bottom of the pot. That is....if your timing is right. Mine was not. It developed a crust all right but not something anyone would want to eat. It didn't affect the rest of the dish but it's certainly something to keep in mind because cleaning your clay pot also takes some delicacy. No soap or metal scrubbers. Still if you have patience and persistence (hard headed) clay pot cooking is a lot of fun and delicious.


MakingSpace said...

Oh my gosh that made me gasp audibly, I tell you. So yum.

The Puerto Ricans call that stuff on the bottom of the pot "pegao" (dialect for "pegado" literally translated "stuck") - I didn't realize it was prized worldwide!

What's the difference between kam yen jan and lup cheong? I'm guessing the one you used is sweeter.

OMG are those li'l teeny mushrooms on top too? So yum, so yum.

So beautiful too.

Big Shamu said...

It's so good. You need to start prowling around your own Chinese grocery stores, I know you have them. Good stuff and they can probably tell you the difference, all I know is I like what I bought. And yes, teeny tiny mushrooms, so good.

MakingSpace said...

I know a local grocery that could definitely tell me the difference. Must investigate.

Those 'shrooms look amaaaaaaaaazing. I love fancy li'l mushrooms.

Gorgeous, gorgeous dish.

froggy said...

This looks worth investigating!!
Brother lives in SF... zillions of clay pots available that aren't in SE WA.

Big Shamu said...

And that's just one thing brothers are good for stuff you can't get. Put that man to work.

MakingSpace said...

OK I did a little detective work and find out that Kam Yen Jan is a brand of lap cheong (there seem to be many spellings of this) sausage. It seems to be preferred because it has pockets of pork fat in it. LOL Apparently you can now get chicken lap cheong but people who really like the stuff stick to the Kam Yen Jan brand and just eat less of it.

There ya go.

I always think of Sam Choy when I thnk of Lap cheong. He puts the stuff in EVERYTHING. Ha

Dani said...

I love your cooking and how you always come up with great dishes outside the normal comfort zone for a lot of us.

Captain Obvious said...

Captain Obvious has always liked enoki mushrooms. It makes a dish, or in this case, a pot look much more elegant.

CO grew up eating lup cheong cooked in a steamer with rice and yes...

The rice at the bottom. CO only wanted to eat lup cheong and the golden rice. A treat around the world in many cultures.

Big Shamu is making CO want to break out the clay pot. Looks great, BS!

Big Shamu said...

Why thanks a lot Cap'n. I get the sense that you are an everyday working chef so that's high praise indeed. Just don't let the other chefs hear you complimenting a blogger, it will mess with your Chef Law.