Last week was an absolute treat for me – my longtime friend and budding photographer came to town to spend four days with me. The purpose of Shivyon’s trip was for us to come up with a game plan for the photography of my cookbook.
Shivyon and one other photographer, Candice (who did all of the bakery’s photography), will be taking all the photos for the cookbook. I am so excited to be working with two incredibly talented women. It is going to be yet another dream come true :)
In all honesty, I thought the actual photo shoot would be last week! HA! Boy was I wrong!! As I have mentioned before, writing a cookbook is a whole new world to me. So my five-month schedule to complete the book and have it out to my layout designer has turned into a seven-month schedule.
At first this stressed me out, I like to be in control and on top of things at all times. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize I just had to let this go. Life doesn’t always go as planned and that’s that. I readjusted my schedule and found that everything was working out better than before anyways. It was meant to be :)
So instead of shooting last week, we brainstormed!! And man was that the best thing that could have happened!!
Shivyon and I laid out all of my plates and bowls, platters and pedestals, cutting boards, teapots, and everything else in between. We looked through cookbooks, magazines, and Pinterest for inspiration while enjoying mid-day Screwdrivers (vodka + orange juice) and listening to Odesza, Jack Johnson, and Drake. We made charcuterie platters for snacks and popped champagne in the afternoon. It was an epic mastermind alliance, fusion of creative powers, and the ultimate brainstorming session.
Shivyon even got a few get photos of the chicks, Chewy, and Barkley as we discussed doing lifestyle photos for the book. I truly want readers to get a feel for me and the life I’m all about living!
I sincerely CANNOT wait for you all to see what we have come up with!!
On top of thoroughly preparing for the July shoot, we cooked every single night together. This was to give us practice. There are a few items in the cookbook that I would like to be photographed while making or in the assembly process so we thought a little practice would serve us well.
On the last night of our culinary adventures together, Shivyon decided she wanted to cook for Ben and I! Since there was no way in heck I was going to fight that, we quickly decided to trade places – Shivyon would cook and I would play photographer! This was an absolute blast!! I learned so much from Shivyon as she cooked and told me the story behind the meal she was making us…
Growing up Shivyon called it “Mushy Rice”. In China it is known as Congee. Laotians call it Khao Phear. No matter where you go or whom you talk to, this dish is described as the ultimate comfort food. It is meant for cozy evenings inside while the weather thrashes unforgivingly outside. It is dish meant for warming your soul, curing your cold, and creating a chill night in.
Shivyon learned to make it from her dad whom made if often while growing up in Laos. She said that many times her father’s family could not afford the chicken or eggs but would still make Congee and just enjoy it as a simple rice porridge.
I was honestly in heaven the moment she started cooking. There were fresh herbs everywhere and as soon as the broth started heating up, our house began to fill with delightful savory aromas of boiling ginger and garlic.
And to add on to our joy of sharing these moments together - of cooking, laughing, telling childhood stories, and sipping wine – it began to rain outside. It was the perfect spring evening for Congee.
Although the name may seem unfamiliar (I know I had never heard of it before), the process is as basic as it gets.
You bring broth to a boil with some fresh garlic and ginger. You then add the sesame oil, salt, and rice. As it cooks for 30 to 40 minutes, you can get started on your chicken – cooking it until it is slightly dry and crispy.
Shivyon made the chicken just right by starting with strips of chicken and as they cooked, she broke them up slowly but surely with a wooden spoon. Once the chicken was cooked through and shredded, she added a little more olive oil, turned the heat up, and continued to cook the chicken until it was light golden brown and crisp around the edges. I’d never seen chicken be cooked and shredded like that before. The end flavor was spot on and perfect for this application.
As the rice was cooking and the chicken was sautéing, Shivyon threw some eggs on the stove to soft boil them. After six minutes, she rinsed the eggs under cold water and because we couldn’t wait to eat, started peeling them feverishly! It made a mess but definitely sped up the process :)
To serve Congee, we filled our bowls with rice porridge and then added a handful of chicken on top. We topped off the chicken with splatters of sesame oil and Tamari. We then tossed on fresh cilantro, jalapenos, and scallions and finally placed the soft boiled egg on top of it all. Last but not least, we sprinkled furikake over the entire dish for the finishing touch.
OH. MY. GOD. This was hands down one of the best meals I HAVE EVER EATEN. Seriously, I was blown away by its texture and its flavor. It was extremely fresh but yet so comforting. Ben was in disbelief!! He was shocked that such basic ingredients could create such a masterpiece!! I could truly go on for hours…
I love to cook. I love to bake. But what I love most is the way food brings people together for all the right reasons. My heart and home is always open to friends and family, especially those who bring their creative spirit and foodie obsession along with them! Thank you Shivyon for bringing such beauty and love into this world :)
To see what Shivyon is up to, you can find her at www.themitchellphotocollection.com or on Instagram @themitchellphotocollection.
Don’t forget to share your creations:
Lick the Bowl – You Only Live Once,
(Yield: 6 servings)
- 10 cups water
- 3 Tbsp Roasted Chicken Better Than Bouillon
- 3 Tbsp sesame oil
- 2-3” chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced (or grated)
- 1 oz (6 gloves) garlic, finely diced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1.5 cups rice
- 1.75# chicken tenders
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- QS Tamari
- QS Sesame Oil
- QS furikake
- 0.70 oz fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 2.25 oz scallions, small diced
- 2 jalapenos, thinly sliced
- 6 soft boiled eggs
- Fill 8QT stockpot with 10 cups of water. Add Better Than Bouillon and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, turn heat down to low and add sesame oil, fresh ginger, garlic, and salt. Stir to combine and then add rice.
- Place lid on pot leaving a slight gap for steam to escape. Continue to simmer on low for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Rice will be done when it is soft, takes on a porridge-like consistency, and appears nice & creamy.
- While rice is simmering, season chicken tenders lightly with salt and pepper. Heat up 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and once oil is hot, add chicken. When chicken begins to cook through, start to break up chicken with a wooden spoon. It should start to look like shredded chicken.
- When chicken is thoroughly broken up and cooked through, add remaining tablespoon of olive oil, turn heat up to high, and cook chicken until edges begin to get crispy and brown.
- While chicken is cooking and rice is simmering, place 6 eggs in a small pot filled with water and place on the stovetop over high heat. Bring water to a boil. Once water is boiling, lower temp to medium-low so that water is slightly boiling but not rapidly so, and let eggs cook for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, remove pot from stove and drain hot water. Run cool water over the eggs until the shells are cool to touch. Once cool, remove shells. Leave eggs whole until ready to serve.
- When ready to serve, spoon rice porridge into a bowl and top with a handful of chicken. Then top with a few drops of sesame oil and a drizzle of tamari. Next, add fresh cilantro, scallions, and jalapenos to your bowl. Break a soft boil egg in half and place it on top of the herbs. Last but not least, sprinkle entire dish with furikake.
- Eat, enjoy, repeat, and make again + again!
**This recipe requires you to be cooking many items at once. If this is too much for you, simply soft boil your eggs first and set them aside. Then cook your chicken and set it aside. Cook your rice porridge last so you can serve it steaming hot and everything else will be ready to go!