Eating is a sensory experience, and sometimes it’s a good idea to re-set your senses. Maybe you’ve been eating too many aggressively flavourful foods, maybe your stomach is iffy due to illness (or indulgence), or maybe you just don’t feel like doing. In any case, a bowl of soupy, falling-apart, porridge-like rice is what you need.
Usually, when one cooks rice, the aim is a pile of fluffy, not-too-sticky, perfectly al dente grains. Some people find this more easily executed than others, but no matter your skill level, making a bowl of overcooked rice is always going to be easier than making a bowl of perfectly cooked rice.
It’s also going to be extremely comforting. The dish requires the perfect amount of effort (almost none), while delivering the maximum amount of soothing nourishment. In fact, it’s what Carey Polis of Bon Appetit makes when she’s sick and, though her full recipe calls for chicken, kale, and garlicky chilli oil, the dish can be stripped down to only two ingredients—rice and stock — and riffed on from there.
All you need to do is measure out your rice, add two or three times the liquid you usually would, and cook it, stirring when you remember, until the rice is a thick, congee-esque mush. I like to throw a parmesan rind in there while it simmers, but most seasoning can be done after the soup is finished.
Soy sauce, a splash of pickled ginger brine, and raw, grated garlic are my favourites, but any colour of miso, fish sauce, any hot sauce, and even cacio e pepe would work. It’s neutral enough to adapt to any mix-ins you throw at it, but satisfying enough on its own not to need them. To make it, you will need:
1 cup rice, rinsed (I like plain white rice best)
5-6 cups flavourful stock (If you’re feeling really lazy, or your stock is bland, utilise some Better Than Bouillon.)
1 parmesan rind
Any herbs you happen to have, tied together with kitchen twine (optional)
As many garlic cloves as you see fit (for grating)
Add the rice, stock, cheese rind, and herbs to a small stock pot or Dutch oven, and bring everything to a boil. (Feel free to salt as needed, but this will depend largely on the state of your stock.) Reduce to a simmer, and let cook for at least half an hour, stirring every once in a while, until the rice is falling-apart soft, and the broth is thick and starchy. If things start to look a little dry before the rice is (over)done, add more stock.
Remove the herbs and rind, ladle into bowls, and grate at least one clove of garlic directly into each serving of soupy porridge (or is it “porridgey soup”?). Season with whatever sauces, oils, and condiments you desire (especially if you desire a little MSG).
It also makes a filling breakfast, particularly when topped with a crispy-edged, olive oil-fried egg, or bacon bits and shredded cheddar. Feel free to get creative, is what I’m saying.