To walk through the farmers market in the weeks before a feasting holiday is to be caught in a migration route. Shoppers swarm stalls to inspect squashes, tubers, and legumes. These funny birds, compelled not north- or southward, but homeward, periodically cause bottlenecks by stopping in the middle of thoroughfares to bury their noses in shopping lists and consult recipes like flight patterns to the idealized communal table of roast turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, dressing, green bean casserole, candied yams and pie.
If home this year is your dwelling in particular, then a hungry brood will soon be flocking to your door. The feeding will start out a frenzy of hands vying for the best pieces of holiday fare, then abate to leisurely, and eventually indifferent, returns to the buffet to peck at a few more mouthfuls of butter, cream, starch, and bird. By the end of it all, the apartment will be littered with empty plates and supine bodies.
After such a meal, a little corrective might be in order and a turkey porridge is a great antacid for the surfeit of food and company.
When the last dinner guest has refused the last extra helping of turkey, potatoes, and dressing, take the remains of the carcass, the bones and the few bits of flesh still clinging on; any gelatinous jus collected on the serving platter; scraps of lacquered skin and fat; the liver and maybe a wing no one wanted.
Put them all in an enameled cast-iron stock pot (the thick bottom prevents scorching during cooking) along with a bowl of raw brown rice, a minced onion, a knob of ginger, a thimble or two of fish sauce, and ten times as much water as you think you'll need. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a tremble and let it alone while you tidy up the dining area and the rest of the kitchen.
By the time the mismatched dishes are put away and the last tumbler wiped dry, you'll have made porridge. You can fish out the bones before putting the porridge away, but really, it's not necessary. It's a homely dish.
The next morning, reheat the porridge and top with autumn greens that sometimes don't make it to the holiday table: a handful of chiffonade napa cabbage from Underwood Family Farms makes a mellow porridge. Some purple mizuna from Schear Rock Farm would lend a spicy kick. If you're a fan of karashi, then a few strands of Windrose Farm's red and green frill mustard would make you happy. Sliced green onions and a pinch of white pepper finish the dish.
Alone with your bowl of gruel, give thanks to what Edna St. Vincent Millay described as the season that “stays the marching year one moment… [to] catalogue, question, contemplate, and see.”
Diep Tran is the owner and chef of Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park. Read about her and her restaurant on her blog, follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.