Lamb Dirty Rice

I can’t begin to tell you what compelled me to make dirty rice for Sunday brunch and serve it with Sous Vide pork belly (recipe forthcoming).  In fact, I can’t remember why I thought to make dirty rice in the first place – I’d never cooked it before, and I can’t really remember ever eating it.  Which simply cannot be, but I just don’t remember.

Maybe I’m just getting old.

At any rate, I’m so glad I did – this was simply incredible.  Now that I’ve made it, and know what I’ve been missing, I will make it again.  And again. And again.

It is just THAT good.

Dirty Rice is a classic Cajun dish consisting of rice, the Holy Trinity of onion, celery and bell pepper, bacon and some sort of meat – either ground pork or sausage, and often including chicken livers.  It can be made very spicy, or not spicy at all, whatever suits your palate.

This version isn’t spicy – the inclusion of an entire tablespoon of Cajun seasoning only gives it a bit of a tingle – but it packs a ton of flavor.  What made me decide to deviate from the norm of ground pork and chicken livers was simple convenience – I’m running a bit short on pork (we’ll be sourcing this year’s hog soon), but have 12 full pounds of ground lamb in the freezer.  I also would have had to thaw at least a pound of chicken livers, when I only needed half a cup, minced, but I had the liver from our lamb in there, which only ran about 6 or so ounces.  It seemed like a no-brainer, and you know me – I have no problem shaking things up with a recipe.

The result?  DELICIOUS.  Since I can’t remember eating dirty rice in the past, I can’t tell you how different it might be from a traditional preparation, and while the lamb flavor was noticeable, it was not at all overwhelming.  An impressive and easy dish – and it makes a ton.  Those six servings are quite generous.

Note: The rice preparation is my go-to for rice, and you can make it with just about any amount of rice and with whatever liquid you prefer.  Just keep the proportions to 1 part rice to 2 parts water – follow the directions closely and it will never fail.  Who needs a rice cooker?

Lamb Dirty Rice. The classic and delicious Cajun rice dish with a twist!

Click the image to enlarge

Lamb Dirty Rice
Serves: 6
[i]Adapted from[url href=”http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/dirty_rice/” target=”_blank”] Simply Recipes[/url][/i]
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup finely diced lamb liver
  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine the rice and 3 cups of the chicken broth in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir the rice; cover with a clean dish towel and the lid and let it site for 10 minutes.
  2. Spread the rice out on a shallow-rimmed baking sheet and drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over it. Mix to combine and set aside.
  3. While the rice is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet or pan large enough to hold all of the ingredients, including the rice, over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp.
  4. Increase the heat to high and add the ground pork, breaking it up as it begins to brown. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper, and continue cooking, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the lamb is cooked through and the vegetables are soft and beginning to turn golden.
  5. Stir in the remaining cup of chicken stock and the diced lamb liver, stirring up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the Cajun seasoning and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until most of the chicken stock has boiled away.
  6. Remove from the heat and add the cooked rice. Toss to combine, and season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Stir in the green onions and serve immediately.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 570 calories, 32g total fat, 125.4mg cholesterol, 671mg sodium, 524.2mg potassium, 46.6g carbohydrates, 1.6g fiber, 3.7g sugar, 22g protein

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto

This recipe is the result of an impulsive purchase of fair trade, organic arborio rice, the huge sage bush planted on the east side of our house, a baby butternut squash from our garden and not enough leftovers for lunch.

Don’t ask me what possessed me to buy the rice or make this for lunch, because I really couldn’t tell you – except maybe that I love risotto and haven’t made it for, well, years.  But when I saw I was going to have to cook something for our lunch to go with the leftover lamb chops from our dinner the night before, I realized I not only had all of the ingredients for risotto (we’d just canned a huge batch of chicken broth the previous week), but all the ingredients for a butternut squash risotto.

So I made this.

And it was incredibly good.

A northern Italian specialty dating as far back as the Renaissance, risotto is traditionally served as a primo piatto (first course) after the antipasto, although in the U.S. it’s usually served as a side, or even a main course. It is made from a high-starch, short-grain rice, such as arborio; the risotto becomes exceptionally creamy as the liquid is gradually stirred into the dish.

This is not a quick recipe, although it’s quite simple; it just requires a lot of attention in the way of stirring, to make sure the liquid – in this case, a good homemade chicken broth – is absorbed so the rice doesn’t become gummy or unevenly cooked.  You don’t have to actually stand over it and tend it non-stop, especially if you’re doing other things to get the meal on the table, but it’s good to make sure it’s well-stirred every half-minute or so.

It’s important to make sure the butternut squash is cut into small cubes, since the liquid added to the rice is also needed to cook that, as well – if cut too large, the rice will cook before the squash is done. (If you’re worried about it, you can parboil the cubed squash for a minute or two in advance, but if cut to a 1/4″ dice, it shouldn’t be a problem.)  You also don’t want to overcook the rice; it should be al dente, so begin tasting it after about 18 to 20 minutes or so.  A mushy risotto is a sad, sad thing.

All in all, this was a plate of creamy, rich, autumnal yumminess, and I was not in the least bit sorry we ate the whole darn pan for lunch (and which also explains why I don’t make it very often).

Note:  This can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth or stock in place of the chicken broth.  If you wish to omit the wine, which adds necessary acidity to counterbalance the richness of the butter and cheese, substitute with 2 or 3 tablespoons of a good quality white wine vinegar.

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto. Winter squash makes a great addition to this autumn-inspired rice dish, which is finished with chopped fresh sage.

Click image to enlarge

Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto
[i]Serves 6 as a side dish, or 3 as a main course[/i]
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the chicken stock in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and keep hot.
  2. Melt the butter in a large, wide skillet or pan over medium heat. Add the onion and squash and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent. Stir in the rice and garlic and continue cooking for another minute.
  3. Stir the wine into the rice mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Begin adding the hot chicken stock a half-cup at a time, stirring constantly after each addition until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Continue stirring the stock into the mixture, a half-cup at a time, until the rice and squash is tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. Stir the cheese and sage into the rice; season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 336 calories, 11.1g total fat, 29.8mg cholesterol, 481.1mg sodium, 488.4mg potassium, 42.4g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 6.2g sugar, 12.4g protein