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Jul 14, 2007 07:27 AM

Cajun Dirty Rice. Less is More.

I was asked on the LA board to post what I finally came up with in my 35 year effort to make Cajun Dirty Rice as good as that I ate at roadside Po Boy stands in southern Louisiana in the late 50s.

I think I have 2 dozen recipes from various restaurants famous for their dirty rice. Some of them have 2 dozen ingredients--eggplant? mushrooms??--and take all day to make. None of them pleased me, maybe because I KNEW those roadside stands couldn't possibly have gone to all that complicated fuss to come up with that divine stuff. I finally found this recipe:

You can't freeze completed dirty rice, obviously (the rice turns to mush), and making the rich meaty chicken stock base takes too much of the day for a single batch of it, so I save (keep in a bag in the freezer) the backs/wings/giblets/necks of the chickens I cut up until I have at least four sets of chicken parts.

I simmer them slowly (a qt. of water for each chicken represented), take the meat off and chop it up, divide the broth and meat equally into 1 qt. bags and freeze that.

When I want a single batch of dirty rice, I thaw one of them, heat it up and follow the recipe from there--adding the good fresh sauteed aromatics and LOTS more cayenne and black pepper.

Sooooo good. I make a meal on just it and a sliced tomato.

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  1. It seems to me, after reading the recipe at the site you posted, that Jessica B. Harris, the culinary historian, made that very dish a few years ago on a Sara Moulton show. She made it look very easy to do. Now you've whetted my appitite.

    1. PhoebeB, I may have a hint that will let you freeze that dirty rice. The gumbopages recipe is about the same that I use from my family. Daddy was Cajun, Mama from New Orleans. Anyway, we always used white rice but once I only had brown and I thought that surely Daddy would would have a fit but, much to my surprise, he said it was just like they had had when he was growing up in the River Parishes in South Louisiana. He asked me to serve it to some of the older relatives who had all grown up on the sugar plantations and in the bayous in Cajun country and they agreed that the brown rice was much closer to the traditional - should I say authentic? - rice for Cajun dishes. I've been using it ever since for Dirty Rice, Jambalaya, Red Beans and Rice, etc. They all loved it and who was I to disagree.
      Brown rice freezes very well and Dirty Rice cooked with brown rice does too. Give it a try. If you like it, you can fix a big batch, freeze small quantities and always have it on hand for quick meals like I do.

      5 Replies
      1. re: MakingSense

        I'll be switched! I never heard that and I will try it! I love brown rice and use it a lot, but that wonderful dirty rice I tasted in LA so long ago was all made with white rice so that's all I've ever done it with.

        I made & froze a big big batch of (white) dirty rice one time, which is how I learned to not do that :o(

        Does it work as well w/the quick-cooking brown rice?

        1. re: PhoebeB

          Never made quick-cooking brown, only regular. I cook batches of brown and freeze it so I don't mind the long cooking time. Minute-Rice is so dreadful that I just never would have dreamed of it. I put most of that stuff into the category of instant grits and other such abominations.
          Except for being out of white rice that day, I would never have tried the Dirty Rice or any of the Cajun dishes with brown because everybody in Louisiana used white rice. Never occurred to me that it had ever been any other way but it made sense that, at some time, rice and other products would have been less processed. All of the relatives who remembered that taste would now be at least in their late 80s to over 100 years old.
          Recipes and the products we use in them change and then we just come to assume that it's always been that way. Just like we all use Tony Chachere's, Old Bay or something now as a short cut. We used to do our own herb mixes.

          1. re: MakingSense

            Do you have a favorite of the Cajun seasoning blends?

            I've had good results w/the quick (15-20 min.) brown rice, but the last time I looked for it I couldn't find any. Have you ever soaked brown rice overnight to cut the cooking time?

            1. re: PhoebeB

              I just use Tony's. Lazy me! Always pick up a few canisters when I go home to New Orleans. I think that's probably the most popular one there but a lot of people use the Zatarain's which is good too.
              The brown rice only takes an hour from cold water to finish. Not much time.

              1. re: PhoebeB

                I've soaked brown rice before cooking (not to make dirty rice), and it still takes 45 minutes to cook. BUT I thought the texture was far superior. Could be, though, that I just cooked it poorly before.