Cajun Dirty Rice

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Dirty Rice, the traditional Cajun/Creole favorite combines browned meats and chicken livers with the trinity (onions, green peppers and celery), Cajun/Creole spices and cooked white rice. It’s very similar to Rice Dressing but Dirty Rice is “dirty”-describing the appearance of the rice after it has been mixed with the browned meats and the chicken liver, which isn’t an ingredient in Rice Dressing. Dirty Rice is too bold and delicious to call it merely a side dish-it’s a very popular accompaniment with meats, fowl and seafood. A version of this dish, and there are endless versions, will always be found at family gatherings and holiday celebrations in South Louisiana, here’s how to make Sweet Daddy D’s Cajun Dirty Rice.

Cajun Dirty Rice in a white bowl with green onion garnish with fork
Cajun Dirty Rice

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Like many popular dishes in South Louisiana, the origins of Dirty Rice can be traced back to the 19th century, when the better cuts of meat and poultry were saved for the rich and the cheaper cuts, like the chicken livers, gizzards and hearts were left for the poor. It’s a common theme when you’re poor, make something tasty with what you have that can be stretched to feed a large family. What they had lots of was some lesser cuts of meat, the innards of the chickens and of course rice, which was very plentiful in Louisiana.It’s not uncommon in Louisiana cuisine when dishes of humble origins find their way to local restaurants, both simple and fancy, and soon become popular ambassadors of Louisiana cuisine. After all, why do you think Popeyes has been hawking Cajun Rice all over the world? It started in poor ole rural Louisiana in the 19th century!  

Here’s What You Need

You know it’s going to be good when you start out with bacon grease. If you don’t have any leftover bacon grease, just fry up a few slices of bacon. The base of this dish, and where the flavor starts is in the meats. I use some ground chuck, the 80/20 mix and some ground pork. The subtle flavor that distinguishes Dirty Rice comes from the chicken livers-pretty much the cheapest thing in the meat department. Of course we have to use the Trinity-that’s yellow onions, bell peppers and celery, plus some aromatics-garlic, green onions and creole seasoning. The liquids are beef stock and a bit of Worcestershire sauce.  It all gets mixed up with some cooked white, long grain rice and finished off with a bit of parsley, kosher salt and ground black pepper. Normally a couple of beers are included, but they don’t go in the pot.

Dirty rice ingredients
Here’s What You Need

Here’s What You Do

First…you have a beer.  Let’s get off on the right foot. Get a cold one and read through the recipe a couple of times. To make this truly no-angst, you’ll need to be prepared, that’s where the mise en place comes in-don’t forget to get the livers boiled and the rice made before you start. While that’s happening, chop up the trinity-they can all go in the same bowl because you’ll add them at the same time. Chop the garlic, green onions and parsley, then measure out all the other ingredients. It’s really a pretty straightforward recipe, you’re starting with the meats and building layers of flavor until you have a beautiful pot of Dirty Rice. No angst…take a swig!

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Prepare the chicken livers and the rice

If you’re lucky enough to have enough rice left over from something else, you’re ahead of the game. If not, you can cook the rice the day before if you want and keep it in the fridge. I use a freezer bag with all the air pushed out. Otherwise, go ahead and cook the rice according to the directions on the package, or your own tried and true method. The chicken livers also need to be cooked in advance, so place them in a pot of enough slightly salted water to cover them, bring it to a boil then let it simmer until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to take the cooked livers out of the water and let them cool, make sure to reserve the cooking water. Once cooled, give them a rough chop and set them aside till you need them.

Time for the meats

It’s all about the meats. This is where the color and flavor base comes from and this is where the “dirty” comes from. Start out by melting the bacon grease over medium high heat in a dutch oven. You know it’s going to be good, did I mention that? Break up the beef and pork into the bacon grease, stir while you fry and when the redness is gone, about 5 minutes, mix in the chopped chicken livers and mix well. Cook all this together for another 5 minutes. Scrape up anything that sticks to the bottom of the pan-that’s called fond and adds some serious deliciousness.

Time for the Trinity and concentration of the flavor.

Add the trinity right to the meats-that’s the yellow onions, bell peppers and celery, saute until the onions are starting to brown which should be about 8 minutes. Stir in half the green onions and then the garlic and continue to sauté for a couple of minutes. The garlic should be smelling pretty darn good about now, so add the creole seasoning. Next, toss in the Worcestershire sauce and mix well, continuing to sauté a minute or two. Add the stock and a little of the reserved water from boiling the chicken livers. (If you have some fond stuck to the bottom of the pot, start with just a little stock to deglaze the pot. This will mix all that delicious fond-flavor right in, then add the remaining stock.) Stir it all together and bring to a high simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by a little more than half-about, 20 to 30 minutes. This is going to concentrate all that flavor you’ve been building at each step.

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All you need is the rice

Once everything is looking and smelling good and the liquid is cooked down quite a bit, it’s time to make the rice dirty. Just add the cooked rice and blend well to incorporate all the ingredients-the rice ain’t white no more! Add some kosher salt and ground black pepper, mix in some parsley and the remaining green onions (save some to top the dirty rice when serving, though) and cook on low just another few minutes, uncovered, until all the liquid is absorbed. Taste it to see if you need more salt, pepper or creole seasoning. You are ready to dish it up-just sprinkle some of the reserved green onions on top when served.

That’s it, simple as that, all there is to it.

Cajun Dirty Rice in a white bowl with green onion garnish
That’s some Cajun Dirty Rice!

Hints and Tips

  • For this recipe I use a combination of ground chuck (80/20) and ground pork. If you prefer to use one or the other, that’s fine. Experiment…try some fresh bulk sausage or some other meats.
  • The chicken livers are an essential part of Dirty Rice. Many recipes call for using the gizzards and hearts along with the livers, so that is certainly an option-same drill, boil them with the livers beforehand and give them a rough chop or a grind. Don’t go overboard on the amount of liver you use because they can certainly take over the flavor profile.  They should be a subtle background flavor, most people won’t even know they’re in there. This is a dish where all the ingredients contribute, but none take over.
  • You can substitute chicken stock or vegetable stock for the beef stock if you want.
  • Dirty Rice differs from Jambalaya in that the cooked rice is added to the meats, giving the rice flavor and color. In Jambalaya, uncooked rice is cooked right along with all the other ingredients, allowing it to soak in the rich flavors.  Give them both a try…there’s room for everybody! 
  • Remember that most commercial creole seasonings and commercial stocks have high salt content, so make sure that you taste as you cook before you add any more salt.

Here are some other Creole/Cajun recipes from Sweet Daddy D you will enjoy:

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cajun dirty rice in a white bowl with green onions, yellow onion, garlic and fork
Sweet Daddy D's Cajun Dirty Rice
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
A traditional Cajun/Creole dish which combines browned meats and liver with onions, peppers, Cajun/Creole spices and cooked white rice. It gets it’s “dirty” description from the color of the browned meats and particularly the chicken liver. Dirty Rice is too bold and delicious to label it just a side dish, it is a very popular accompaniment with meats, fowl and seafood. A version of this dish, and there are endless versions, will always be found at family gatherings and holiday celebrations in South Louisiana.
Servings Prep Time
12 Servings 30 Minutes
Cook Time Calories per Serving
57 Minutes 391
Servings Prep Time
12 Servings 30 Minutes
Cook Time Calories per Serving
57 Minutes 391
cajun dirty rice in a white bowl with green onions, yellow onion, garlic and fork
Sweet Daddy D's Cajun Dirty Rice
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
You:
Rate this recipe!
Print Recipe
A traditional Cajun/Creole dish which combines browned meats and liver with onions, peppers, Cajun/Creole spices and cooked white rice. It gets it’s “dirty” description from the color of the browned meats and particularly the chicken liver. Dirty Rice is too bold and delicious to label it just a side dish, it is a very popular accompaniment with meats, fowl and seafood. A version of this dish, and there are endless versions, will always be found at family gatherings and holiday celebrations in South Louisiana.
Servings Prep Time
12 Servings 30 Minutes
Cook Time Calories per Serving
57 Minutes 391
Servings Prep Time
12 Servings 30 Minutes
Cook Time Calories per Serving
57 Minutes 391
This is What You Need
This is What You Do
  1. Place chicken livers in water to simmer until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Let them cool then give them a rough chop and set aside; reserve the cooking water.
  2. In a dutch oven, melt the bacon grease over medium high heat.
  3. Maintaining a medium high heat, brown the beef and pork in the bacon grease; when the redness is gone (about 5 minutes), add the chopped chicken livers and mix well; cook together for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the yellow onions, bell peppers and celery to the meats and saute until the onions are starting to brown, about 8 minutes.
  5. Stir in about half the green onions and then the garlic and continue to sauté for a couple of minutes until the garlic is aromatic.
  6. Add the creole seasoning and the Worcestershire sauce and mix well, continuing to sauté.
  7. Add the stock and a little of the reserved water from boiling the chicken livers; mix together well and bring to a high simmer, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by a little more than half-about, 20 to 30 minutes.
  8. Mix in the cooked rice and blend well to incorporate all the ingredients. Taste and add kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste. Mix in the parsley and remaining green onions and cook on low another few minutes uncovered until all the liquid is absorbed.
  9. Sprinkle some of the reserved green onions on top when served.
Recipe Notes

For this recipe I use a combination of ground chuck (80/20) and ground pork. If you prefer to use one or the other, that's fine.

The chicken livers are an essential part of Dirty Rice. Many recipes call for using the gizzards also, so that is certainly an option.  Don't go overboard on the livers because they can certainly take over the flavor profile.  They should be a subtle background flavor, like all the other ingredients.

Remember that most commercial creole seasonings and commercial stocks have high salt content, so make sure that you taste as you cook before you add any more salt.

Nutrition Facts
Sweet Daddy D's Cajun Dirty Rice
Amount Per Serving
Calories 391 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 32%
Saturated Fat 8g 40%
Trans Fat 0.01g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 123mg 41%
Sodium 543mg 23%
Potassium 203mg 6%
Total Carbohydrates 30g 10%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 4g
Protein 20g 40%
Vitamin A 53%
Vitamin C 35%
Calcium 6%
Iron 25%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

 

 

 

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