“Dirty” Rice (Cajun Rice Dressing)

"Dirty" Rice (Cajun Rice Dressing)Getting’ Dirty
The arrival of February means we leave the dullness of the last days of January and move headlong into a series of events that happen within the span of two weeks. First up is Super Bowl Sunday and while it may not be as exciting this year due to restrictions and whatnot, it is still an afternoon of much-needed and appreciated entertainment. Next comes Valentine’s Day which will also see its celebrations dimmed by the current situation. But, it still gives us something to celebrate and it highlights the importance of letting the ones you love know how you feel. And lastly, bringing up the rear, is Mardi Gras…

I recognize that, outside of Louisiana, Mardi Gras may not be that big of a deal. Ash Wednesday is much more widely observed. I, however, see Mardi Gras as an excuse to make recipes from one of my favorite regional cuisines. This year, because I am still on my trying new things kick, I will be making recipes from my new award-winning cookbook, The Mosquito Supper Club by Melissa Martin.

If you have ever wanted to taste the legit flavors of the Louisiana bayou, this book is for you. On top of that the pages are filled with fantastic stories of the people who live there and about their struggle to earn a living and maintain their way of life in the face of global warming. I have recently made a number of recipes from the book and have yet to find one that wasn’t outstanding. Be prepared to plan ahead, though. These recipes are authentic and require certain ingredients that you just won’t find on the West Coast and will have to be ordered to get the right flavors.

A couple of weeks ago, I made the Braised Duck Legs on a blustery Sunday and the results were fall-off-the-bone fantastic. As suggested by the author, I also made the Rice Dressing to go with it. Rice Dressing is more commonly known to the rest of the United States as “Dirty” Rice because of the “dirty” color that happens when you add the ground meat to it. No matter what you call it, the rice is good eatin’ and can be served along side duck, chicken, beef or turkey. It’s also good on its own with a side salad, fresh green beans, or stewed greens. The recipe makes a lot. But, the rice tastes better the next day—so it’s worth it.

If you have never tasted this Louisiana staple you have definitely been missing out. Don’t be turned off by the inclusion of chicken liver (I don’t use gizzards). It just gives the dish richness. I strongly urge you to give this rice a try.

And, laissez les bons temps rouler, Cher…

“Dirty” Rice (Cajun Rice Dressing) Recipe
Adapted from The Mosquito Supper Club: Cajun Recipes from a Disappearing Bayou by Melissa Martin
Yields 6 to 8 servings

1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground chicken liver
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon hot sauce, preferably Original Louisiana Hot Sauce, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 pounds yellow onions, finely diced
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
2 cups cooked white rice

Assemble and prep all the ingredients.

Prep the meat
Place the ground pork, beef, and chicken liver in a large bowl. Season with salt, black pepper, cayenne, and hot sauce. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until evenly combined.

Cook the meat
Warm a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and warm it for 30 seconds. Add the meat mixture and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until it is browned and crumbled (about 8 minutes).

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat mixture to a clean large bowl. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot and drain the rest.

Cook the vegetables
Return the pot to medium heat and add the reserved 1 tablespoon of fat. Add the diced yellow onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden (about 15 minute). Add the bell pepper, celery, and garlic and cook until the bell pepper and celery are soft (about 15 minutes). Stir the mixture every 5 minutes to make sure the vegetables aren’t sticking.

Finish the dish
Return the meat mixture to the pot with the vegetables and stir to combine. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the parsley, green onions, and rice. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve immediately.

Do ahead
If you are not using the Dirty Rice right away, allow the to dressing cool and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It will taste even better the next day.

Rice dressing keeps for a week in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving.

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