Lake Charles Dirty Rice
Serves 6 to 8
This recipe appears at just about every occasion in Cajun Country. Whether it’s a holiday, funeral, family reunion, or potluck dinner, you can bet there will be at least one form of dirty rice or rice dressing. At the Link family reunion in Robert’s Cove, I counted six versions, all different. The essential ingredients are few, but flavor and texture vary greatly.
The main difference between dirty rice and rice dressing is that rice dressing is generally made with ground beef or pork, whereas dirty rice is made with pork and chicken livers. Many people think they don’t like liver, but when it’s balanced with other flavors, the liver taste is not overpowering. I’ve served this deeply flavored rice to many people who claim they hate liver, only to have them love it.
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 ounces ground pork
1/2 cup chicken livers (about 4 ounces), pureed1
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
3 cups cooked rice
1/2 bunch scallions (white and green parts), chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the pork and chicken livers and cook, stirring, until browned. Add the salt, black pepper, and chili powder and stir often, but resist the impulse to stir constantly: You want the meat to stick to the pan and get crusty. Add ¼ cup of the chicken broth and cook until it has evaporated, allowing the meat mixture to get browned and crusty and stick to the pan once again. Add the onion, celery, garlic, jalapeño, and oregano and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are nicely browned and crusty and beginning to stick to the pan. Add the rice, the remaining 1 ¼ cups broth, the scallions, and parsley. Stir until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is heated through.
NOTE: When making dishes that involve rice, remember that your flavor base will seem overly seasoned until the rice absorbs the flavors. In Cajun cooking, salt is the most crucial ingredient to get right, so you’ll want to taste the dish after the rice cooks and adjust accordingly.