How to Make Dirty Rice and Jambalaya

Dirty rice probably originated as a creation of slave cuisine long before the onset of the Civil War. Slave-owners gave the poorer quality cuts of meat, even pig intestines, ears, and feet, to their involuntary servants. Slaves learned how to make these discarded animal parts taste good, and today these old treats are a component of Soul Food. In Louisiana rice was plentiful and slaves combined chicken offal with their rice ration into a popular dish most call dirty rice because the browned bits of meat give the rice a dirty appearance. Cajuns, also often living in poverty, adopted this economical dish, and now it is a famous part of Cajun cuisine.

I’ve studied many recipes for dirty rice, and they vary quite a bit.  Some call for 4 stalks of celery; others use no celery at all.  Justin Wilson, the late television chef, included canned cream of mushroom soup in his version.  His dirty rice is about the only recipe in his first book that doesn’t use cayenne pepper, but dirty rice definitely needs heat from cayenne.  Another late Cajun chef, Paul Prudhomme, wrote 2 recipes for dirty rice in his Louisiana Kitchen cookbook, including a seafood dirty rice, but in the Prudhomme Family Cookbook a recipe for dirty rice is not listed, though a recipe called “greasy rice” with hamburger and bacon basically is dirty rice.  The following recipe is my version of dirty rice, and I think it represents the best elements of the herb-flavored, starchy, meaty dish.

Cook 1 and 1/2 cups of rice in 3 cups of water with plenty of butter and salt.  While the rice is cooking brown 1 pound of Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage with 1 pound of ground chicken livers in a dry skillet under high heat.  Feel free to substitute any kind of ground meat, if you don’t like liver.  Use a spatula to break apart the meat. When the meat is no longer pink, smother it with 1 bunch of chopped green onions, 1 bunch of chopped parsley, 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped bell pepper, and 1 chopped stalk of celery.  Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper.  Cover and cook until the herbs and vegetables are soft.  Mix the cooked rice with the meat and vegetables and let this sit together for 30 minutes with the skillet left on warm.  Dirty rice can be served as a main dish or a side and can be stuffed into poultry or bell peppers.  Boudin is a sausage made with a filling similar to dirty rice, though ground pork and pork livers are usually used.  Ground gizzards are also commonly used in dirty rice, but I think they are chewy and tough.  To make gizzards taste delicious, roll them in seasoned flour, brown them, smother them in onions, and cook them in a crockpot with a little water for 6 hours.  They will be nice and tender.

My dirty rice.  I left out the bell pepper (always optional in my opinion) and substituted ground turkey for ground chicken livers.  I prefer the latter, but my daughter doesn’t like liver.

One day when my daughter was about 6 years old she asked what was for supper.  I told her dirty rice.  She said, “I don’t want dirty rice.  I want clean rice.”  Then she didn’t like it because she didn’t care for the taste of liver.  Ever since, I’ve substituted ground turkey, called it Cajun clean rice, and she likes it just fine.

Dirty rice comes under the category of rice dressing when cooked rice is mixed with other cooked ingredients.  Jambalaya is different.  Jambalaya is like a dry soup when raw rice is cooked with other ingredients, and the rice absorbs the flavor of the items it’s cooked with.  Jambalaya originated in southern France and northern Spain  and is very similar to a Spanish paella.  There are a great variety of jambalayas.  I make chicken and sausage jambalaya most often, and this is how I make it.

Dice 1 pound of boneless chicken thighs and roll the pieces in flour seasoned with salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Brown the pieces in a little oil and set aside.  Chop 2 onions, 1 bell pepper, and 1 stalk of celery and sautee them in the grease the chicken was browned in.  Add 1 and 1/2 cups of raw rice and 2 crushed cloves of garlic to the vegetables and brown the rice. Season to taste with salt, red and black peppers, and thyme. Add 3 cups of chicken broth, stir the pan, scraping up the browned bits, and pour all of this in a casserole dish.  Add the chicken and 1 pound of smoked sausage such as andoullie or kielbasa cut into pieces.  Pour all this into a casserole dish.  Stir it so the rice is covered with liquid and the meats are evenly distributed.  Cover and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for an hour.  I made this 2 weeks ago but didn’t think to take a photo of it.

I make many other types of jambalaya.  Just plain chicken jambalaya is the easiest.  Season and brown 6 chicken thighs and place them on top of the rice, vegetables, and chicken broth in a casserole dish and bake.  Double sausage jambalaya uses 2 pounds of 2 different kinds of sausage instead of chicken and sausage.  Triple sausage jambalaya uses 2 pounds of 3 different kinds of sausage instead of chicken and sausage.  Shrimp and sausage jambalaya is not hard to make either.  The shrimp doesn’t need to be browned ahead of time, and I like to add tomato paste to it, but don’t worry about overcooking the shrimp.  I’ve found that baking them with rice for an hour does not overcook them, though many chefs claim it does.  Jambalaya is a great way to jazz up leftovers.  Turkey, ham, and mushroom jambalaya can be made from holiday leftovers using broth made from the turkey carcass.  Leftover pot roast can be converted into beef and cabbage jambalaya. (I like tomatoes in this 1 too.)  And leftover leg of lamb can be turned into lamb and raisin jambalaya.


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One Response to “How to Make Dirty Rice and Jambalaya”

  1. Top 28 Jambalaya Vs Dirty Rice - Lastest Updates - Says:

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