26 The NaTioNal CuliNary review • JaNuary 2018
in the Kitchen slow-cooked
Porridge is having a moment. Yes, you heard correctly. But we’re not talking about the sloppy version your grandmother might have served for breakfast, or the vat of overcooked oatmeal
you dreaded at your college cafeteria. We’re talking about savory, slow-cooked dishes that have
become chefs’ latest take on a grain bowl, stew, or perhaps a combination of both.
Whether the iteration is a Chinese-inspired congee, Filipino lugaw, or a more modernistic
variation of slow-cooked oats, sorghum, rye and other grains, chefs are using this typically neutral
“base” as a way to layer in other, bolder flavors and textures using age-old cooking techniques and,
in some cases, cultural traditions.
The porridge “trend” also seems to piggyback on chefs’ increasing use of ancient, heirloom
and other “interesting” grains as the next step beyond a quicker simmer to develop a velvety, rich,
soul-satisfying side. Oh, and it’s also gluten-free.
In essence, porridge marks the comfort food staple of virtually all cultural cuisines around the
globe, including here in America. Aside from oatmeal and cream of wheat, we all know grits to be
a staple of Southern cuisine, and Italians here and abroad regularly cook polenta and risotto as a
starchy complement for many savory dishes.
In Mexico, there are many types of maize porridge made using corn flour and milk. Colombians
enjoy mazamorra, a porridge made by slow-simmering hominy in water until tender. It’s served
with milk or panela (guava paste), and, in some parts of the country, more savory add-ins such as
beans, garlic, coriander, potatoes and/or beef and ribs.
Russians favor kasha, a type of porridge made with simmered buckwheat and butter or yogurt
and other add-ins.
The Danish are known for their porridge, too. NOMA co-founder Claus Meyer puts his own
spin on porridges eaten in his native Denmark at Agern in New York’s Grand Central Terminal,
offering sweet and savory variations using grains such as pearl barley, freekeh, sprouted wheat and
locally milled rye topped with fresh fruits, sausage, eggs, herbs, edible flowers and more.
As sorghum continues to get more attention as a nutritious and nutty whole grain, porridge
could be the next iteration. Sorghum porridge is often eaten for breakfast or a light lunch throughout
Africa and South Africa, with heartier versions involving beef, yams, and red and green peppers.
Coleen Donnelly, corporate chef at InHarvest, Bemidji, Minnesota, once developed a variation,
toasting and cooking down the grains in chicken stock and bay leaf and serving the porridge with
a buttermilk-tempered egg mixture, chiffonade of sage, caramelized roma tomatoes, crispy bacon
strips and chilled, brûléed goat cheese discs.
Chez Ma Tante in Brooklyn, New York, serves up a curried kedgeree, a version of a British-Indian rice “porridge” of sorts, with seasoned, tender rice and poached salted cod, and a celery
“salad” topping for greenness and crunch.
Discover new ways with porridge, congee, lugaw
and more. // By Amelia Levin