Popeye’s calls this dish “Cajun Rice,” but I don’t know of any Cajuns who call it that. We either call it “Rice Dressing” or “Dirty Rice.” Whatever it’s called, it’s my absolute favorite side dish, and like many side dishes, it could easily serve as a main dish if you are so inclined. As a main, I would pair it with steamed asparagus, sautéed Brussels sprouts, or a spinach salad.
What I love about this dish is its use of chicken livers in a way that many liver-haters won’t recognize – just enough to add that certain something-something but not enough to scream, “LIVER!” I also love, of course, the Louisiana DNA of this dish. It starts with the “Holy Trinity” (onions, celery, bell pepper) and ends with diced scallions and parsley on top. For me, there is nothing else required for an amazing meal. This dish will do nicely all by itself, thank you very much – because it incorporates my favorite starch – RICE! – as well as that Trinity, Cajun seasonings, and pork, beef, and/or eggplant. All of that combines in a unique harmony with the sole purpose of making the taste buds sing the “Hallelujah Chorus” as it is savored. Fried chicken, barbecue, and many other iconic Southern main dishes are definitely good companions to this, but on my plate, it can sing all by itself any time!
4 tablespoons of good olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion, diced (at least 2 cups – it’s okay if you get more than 2 cups out of your onion – use it all)
1 cup of green bell pepper, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
1 head of garlic, minced
1 pound of ground pork
1 pound of ground beef
1/2 pound of chicken livers
4 cups of cooked long-grain rice
1 1/2 cups of diced scallions (at home we called them “onion tops”)
3/4 cup of chopped parsley
Seasonings: In a medium-sized bowl, combine the following: 1 tablespoon sweet paprika; 1 teaspoon onion powder; 1 teaspoon garlic powder; 1 tablespoon black pepper; 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper; 1 teaspoon celery seeds; and 1 tablespoon salt. You will use this mixture to season the beef, pork, and chicken livers.
1 – Sauté the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Remove from heat.
2 – Drain, season, and then fry the chicken livers in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until they are fully cooked, about 6-7 minutes. Allow to cool, then coarsely pulse (or hand-mince) the chicken livers until they are just crumbly – do not over-process (you don’t want paté). Set aside.
3 – Season and then brown the ground beef and ground pork in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, about 10 minutes total.
4 – Combine the sautéed veggies, liver, and ground meat with a large mixing spoon before folding in the 4 cups of cooked rice. Gently blend until all ingredients are evenly distributed and the rice is fully coated (no longer white). Do not over-mix. Top with diced scallions and chopped parsley. Serves 10-12.
Variation: Reduce (or eliminate) the amount of chicken livers, pork, and beef and substitute the same quantity with eggplant that has been peeled, lightly seasoned, and oven-roasted until tender. Once cooked, coarsely chop (do not puree) the eggplant before adding to the rice.
© All Rights Reserved. Check out my book, Stone Motel – Memoirs of a Cajun Boy, where I mention more food and how it played a part in our lives. This rice-dressing recipe is from my forthcoming cookbook: “Fix me a plate!” anticipated release, early autumn. Please FOLLOW me! (form is at the bottom of this page).