- Dirty Rice
- Short Ribs
- Hot Stuffed Mushrooms
- Pinto Beans in Crockpot
- Roasted Chicken
- Southern Brisket
Dirty Rice; Dirty History
One of the weekly standby dishes easily found in Louisiana cooking is dirty rice. A boxed version of dirty rice located the grocery shelves offers a popular version of the dish, “just add ground meat” and you have a great family meal. There is nothing grand about the history of the dish though and today’s recipes for the dish are a far cry from its origins – thankfully.
Dirty Rice was a poor family’s cooking. While the slaughtered chicken went into the stew pot up in the plantation house, the slaves or the tenant farmers were left with the chicken guts, even the chicken feet. The Louisiana plantations planted rice in the bayou where it grew plentiful and cheap for the locals. The original dirty rice was cooked chicken guts, the gizzard, heart, and kidneys, cooked in a pan. Afterward the cooked organ meats were chopped fine while the rice cooked in added water in the same pan. The two ingredients were seasoned with salt and pepper before serving. Dirty rice tastes good but the appeal loses some of its luster when considering what was being served in the better houses.
For the poor of Louisiana, Black, White and Cajun, dirty rice was a filling staple dish. The dish required local ingredients only and provided stomach filling satisfaction. As a family gained more wherewithal, they kept dirty rice but added more ingredients. Andouille sausage was ground pig stomachs and spices, yet, cheaper than cuts of pork but more expensive than chicken guts. The sausage was added to the pot of rice. Vegetables came and went as they became available and then disappeared with the seasons.
Dirty Rice has not changed. Organ meats are still the least expensive items in the meat case. Ground beef and ground chicken are more expensive but adding more rice to the dish stretches out how many mouths one dish can feed, so penny-pinchers can still indulge. Of course, one can sauté vegetables and fold them in, or add hot sauce for an added flavor burst. The dish continues to be trash cooking at its finest, perfect for wilting greens and forgotten items in the back of the refrigerator that are still usable if cooked.
Just as an aside, after swapping out the organ meats for sausage, chicken meat and vegetables, the dish is called jambalaya. Add some chili powder for a kick if you want.
Dirty Rice is presented as “authentic Louisiana” cooking, a dish that every visitor to the state should seek out and savor. For tourist dollars, one can taste the echo of poverty. Everyone should try the dish, and while sampling the food, each can appreciate the ingenuity and skills of these poor communities that turned the least desirable ingredients into a specialty.
- 1 lb. ground meat (any kind will do)
- 3/4 cup medium grain white rice
- 2 cups water
- Salt & pepper
Sauté the meat in a heavy pan (like cast iron) until browned. Remove and set aside, leaving the grease in the pan. Add rice and water, cooking 15 minutes or so until rice is soft. Return meat to pan. Season with salt and pepper to serve.
Short Ribs – slow cooked
This recipe is for a cast iron pot with lid.
- 3-5 lb. short ribs
- 1 large onion sliced
- 2 tomatillos, cut into several pieces
- 1 tomato, cut into large pieces
- 2 cups broth (vegetable or beef)
- 2 cups salted water (your call how much salt)
- 1 cup flour
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ cup oil (grapeseed or olive oil)
Preheat oven to 300F.
Place the pot on a burner and pre-heat on medium high.
Wash and dry the short ribs. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Add ribs to hot oil in batches. Let ribs rest on a plate while working on next batches. Add additional oil in small increments as the flour absorbs the oil. Be careful not to scorch the meat. (Save the leftover flour for end.)
When complete add more oil to pot with heat turned down to medium. Add onions and sauté until soft, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add tomatillos and tomatoes, stirring them to coat. Add broth and stir. Add water and stir again.
Return ribs to pot, bone side down. Lid the pot and place in oven. Cook for 5 hours.
Return pot to burner. Plate the short ribs on a large platter. Using oven mitts, pour off the fat into a cup.
To thicken the broth into a gravy, take three teaspoons of the reserved flour and put in a bowl. Add three or four tablespoons of the piping hot fat from the cup and stir into a paste. Add the paste to the pot (it is still cooking hot), stirring until it is incorporated. Pour the gravy over the ribs and serve.
Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms
- 2 jalapeños
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 scallions
- 2 tomatillos, peeled of paper
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese or queso fresco
- ½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- 4 TBS oil, divided
- ¼ – ½ lb. chicken sausage (optional)
- 4 mushrooms, chopped
- 8 large button mushroom caps or 2 portobellos
Preheat oven to 350o.
Wash vegetables, removing stems and roots. Heat cast iron skillet on HIGH and add 2 TBS oil. Toast jalapenos, garlic, scallions, and tomatillos until seared on all sides. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes.
In food processor, add cooked vegetables and process. Add pepitas and cilantro, process. Slowly add remaining oil in a slow drizzle with machine running. Scrape down sides. Add cheese and chopped mushrooms, process. If adding sausage, process last.
Remove stems from large mushrooms and wipe grit off caps with a damp paper towel. Wipe caps again with oil. On a baking sheet, either oil the bottom or use parchment paper. Fill the caps with mixture and place on baking pan.
Bake 30-40 minutes. Tops will be browned.
Refrigerates well for leftovers.
Pinto Beans in Crockpot
This is an “assemble and go to work” recipe. Twenty minutes of prep time in the morning and then 8 to 10 hours in the crockpot.
- 1 pound dry pinto beans – 2 cups
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion – chopped into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 tomatillo – small dice
- 1 jalapeno – cored and finely chopped (remove seeds for less heat)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt – divided
- 3 cloves garlic – minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups water
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth – or vegetable broth; divided
- Place the pinto beans in a large colander. Thoroughly rinse them. Pick the beans over, removing any damaged or clearly misshapen beans and discarding them. Transfer the rinsed beans to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.
- Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, tomatillo, jalapeno, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and let cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to the slow cooker. Add the beans, sautéed vegetables, bay leaves, cumin, oregano, cayenne, and remaining teaspoon salt. Pour the broth and water over the top of the ingredients.
- Cover and cook on HIGH for 8 to 10 hours, until the beans are tender. All slow cookers are different and can heat things differently, so if yours tends to run hot, check it earlier. Depending upon your model, there may be some liquid still in the slow cooker. Discard the bay leaves.
- If a lot of liquid is left, mash ½ to 1/3 of beans in the pot. Stir and serve.
- FOR Bean Paste: mash them all!
1 whole chicken
Butter, oil or (best) chicken fat
Kosher salt and ground pepper
Preheat oven to 350o F
Wash the chicken. Pop out one thigh bone from the spine. Using a knife or chicken shears, cut the chicken in half up that side of the spine. Turn the chicken over and, using the palms of your hands, press down and break the breast bone, leaving the chicken flat.
Cover the bottom of the cast iron pan with kosher salt. Place chicken in the pan, folding the thighs so that the legs are facing in. Rub the chicken with the preferred fat. Season the skin with more kosher salt and pepper.
Shove the pan in the oven and roast for 90 minutes. Ten minutes before the end, check the skin. If the skin is not crisp, turn on the broiler to crisp the skin, being careful not to burn it.
Remove and plate the chicken if serving immediately. If not plating, let the bird rest on a chopping board, covered. The juices in the bottom are usually three or four tablespoons of fat and the rest is juice. You can use these juices either to make a gravy or to pour into a mason jar for another dish. I use the chilled fat from the mason jar to coat my roasted chicken the next week and the solidified juices for the gravy.
5 ½ hours (mostly unattended)
- Whole Brisket 8-9 lbs. OR
- Half Brisket 4-5 lbs.
- Large Sweet Onion, sliced
- 1/4 cup water
- Flour, enough to coat both side of brisket
- Any oil for searing
- 32 oz. can tomato sauce
- 8 oz. cider vinegar
- 6 oz. brown sugar, dark is best
- 1 oz. molasses
- 1Tbs salt
- 1 bay leaf
Post cooking seasoning
- Garlic powder
Preheat oven to 300oF
Heat oil in pan on stovetop. Coat Brisket with flour and sear on both sides. When searing is complete, Remove pan from heat. Slice onion thinly and cover bottom of pan (add a second onion if needed). Add water. Place brisket on top of onions, fat side down.
Pour tomato sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, and molasses over the meat. Toss bay leaf in pan. Sprinkle meat and overflowing sauce with salt. Then seal pan with heavy duty aluminum foil.
Cook five hours.
Remove from oven and let rest ten minutes. Remove foil, carefully. Add post seasonings to your taste. Remove brisket to cutting board. You can remove fat easily if you want while the brisket rests on cutting board.
Pour off sauce into glass bowl or measuring cup. Let fat rise to top and either pour off or ladle off. If you desire a thicker sauce, heat 2 TBS fat and then add 2 TBS flour to saucepan. When paste forms, slowly add sauce to thicken, stirring constantly. Taste and adjust seasoning again.
Prep time: 1 hour
- 8 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup kasha (buckwheat whole oats)
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup chopped almonds
- 1 cup chopped (choose): Cashews, pecans, walnuts, and/or macadamia
- Cocoa nibs
- Shredded raw coconut
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 Tbs honey
- ¼ cup blackstrap molasses (unsulphured is best)
- 1 cup oil (any will serve)
- 2 TBS butter
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 2 Tbs cinnamon
- 1 Tbs ginger
- 1 Tbs vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Mix all the dry ingredients in an oversized bowl.
Add all the wet ingredients to a sauce pot set on medium. If brown sugar is hardened, press down on chunks as the mixture heats. Stir occasionally. Allow mixture to foam once and immediately turn off heat. Stir. Entire process takes five minutes.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly coated. Use wire rimmed baking pans or parchment paper on top of cookie sheets. Spread mixture on pan evenly. Place pans in center of oven.
Total Bake Time is 30 minutes. At 15-minute mark, swap places and turn around the pan for even baking. Let granola cool in pan or on paper.
12 servings. Granola will last a week (hah!) in plastic-ware on counter. Excellent in freezer.