1) We left behind the microwave oven, which belonged to one of our roommates, and didn’t acquire another one.
2) We encountered Dominican food. Inwood has a huge Dominican population, and they LOVE to cook. We moved in right at the start of Inwood’s restaurant renaissance, now in full swing, and were quickly introduced to a tremendous variety of Dominican culinary delights at upscale restaurants like 809 (the DR’s area code) and Mamajuana and hole-in-the-wall joints like La Nueva España. If you live in or near New York, you owe it to yourself to come up to Dyckman Street and try some pulpo, arépas, and concón.
Concón is the name for the scorched rice that cooks against the bottom of the pan when you’re making paella. I love crispy starches of all kinds–burnt toast, toasted pasta, the little shnibbly bits of French fries that fall to the bottom of the deep fryer–so I was thrilled to encounter this particular variation. It is truly delicious. Everyone makes it differently; every restaurant and every home chef proudly proclaims theirs to be the best. While reviewing several northern Manhattan restaurants for Gourmet magazine, Junot Díaz declared that concón “in my sureño mind is the essence of Dominican comida casera.”
Despite being surrounded by all this Dominican deliciousness, my partner and I are still New York Jews, which means our default “ugh I am so tired can we just order in” place is Amy’s Chinese Restaurant on 207th Street. The food is decent and there are always leftovers. With no microwave oven, the best way to reheat those leftovers is in a pan on the stove.
Aha, you think, now I know where this is going. And you would be right! It turns out that orange chicken, beef with broccoli, and other American Chinese staples are even better the next day if you follow these very simple steps to turn the leftover Chinese rice into something quite like concón.
|Chinese Leftovers with Concón|
- Chinese leftovers with sauce
- Cooked white rice
- In a cold nonstick or cast iron pan, mix the leftovers and the rice. The proportions are up to you. Use a large enough pan to hold everything in a single layer to ensure maximum contact with the heating surface and thorough cooking.
- There will probably still be some sauce stuck to the container. Fill the container with water and pour enough of the sauce-and-water into the pan to half-submerge the leftovers.
- Turn the heat to medium-high. Once the water starts bubbling, cook, stirring occasionally, until all the water has simmered off. This heats those big chunks of meat and vegetables all the way through. (You can test one of the biggest ones with a meat thermometer to make sure it’s reached an internal safe temperature of 165F. It doesn’t matter what kind of meat or veg it is, or how thoroughly it was cooked before; according to the USDA, 165F is the minimum safe temperature for any pre-cooked, chilled or frozen, reheated food.)
- Now the sizzling starts. Set a timer for 2 minutes. Let the food cook without stirring until the timer goes off. Scrape up a bit of rice and see how crispy it is. If it’s not yet brown, increase the heat. If it’s blackened, decrease the heat. It may take a few tries to get this right; you want it crisp and dark brown but not quite burnt. Once you have the temperature adjusted, begin a cycle of crisping for 2 minutes and then scraping up the scorched bits and stirring them in. You’ll nicely brown the meat and vegetables in the process.
- When most of the sticky bits of the rice have been scorched, it will suddenly get much easier to scrape them up and move the food around the pan. This means your meal is done! Serve and enjoy.
If your leftover already include noodles or rice, no need to add more rice. Pork fried rice makes spectacular concón.
Only make as much as you can eat. For health and safety reasons, food should never be reheated more than once.