Dirty rice? That doesn't sound like something fit to eat, but don't let the name fool you. The Louisiana Cajun dish is quite delicious and a good way to stretch inexpensive ingredients. The muddy look comes from the chopped chicken livers that almost look like little clumps of dirt in the mix. Some cooks substitute ground beef for the chicken livers, others include ground pork with the livers. Another variation includes chicken gizzards. Even seasonings differ. Clearly dirty rice, like potato salad and spaghetti sauce, varies from kitchen to kitchen. A survey of 10 recipes on the Internet finds 10 ways to make it. The common thread, besides the rice, is the "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking: bell pepper, onion and celery. But cookbook author Virginia Willis, whose recipe appears here, even plays with that, substituting poblano chilies for green peppers because she likes them better. There are boxed mixes on the market, the most common being Zatarain's. You'll need to add the chicken livers, though.
Janet K. Keeler, Times food and travel editor
Louisiana Dirty Rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper (or poblano chili), cored, seeded and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons Creole seasoning, prepared or homemade (see recipe)
1 cup chicken livers, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1 cup low-fat, reduced-sodium chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
To parboil the rice, combine the water and rice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and decrease the heat to low. Simmer until the rice is just tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Cover and keep warm.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, green pepper and celery. Sprinkle with the Creole seasoning. Cook until the vegetables start to color, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring frequently, until the liver turns brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 45 to 60 seconds.
Add the reserved rice, chicken stock and bay leaf. Stir to combine. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is soft and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the scallions and serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
Source: Bon Appetit, Y'all by Virginia Willis (Ten Speed Press, 2008).
Emeril's Essence Creole Seasoning
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Thoroughly combine all ingredients and store in an airtight jar or container.
Source: Emeril Lagasse, Food Network.