Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The benefits of travel

Despite our extremely cosmopolitan, eclectic and generally adventurous approach to cuisine, until a visit to New Orleans in our late 20s we had never made dirty rice, and I for one had never heard of it. What a revelation. Dirt cheap, dead easy and delicious, it's one of those "stone soup" meals that you can make with pretty much anything at hand.

Since the fridge is filling up with garden goodness (we'll prepare a lot of it for our annual garden party this weekend) today is dirty rice day. I'll use the day's harvest-- broccoli, chard, an early turnip and its greens-- for the veggies in this dish. Might go see if there's a carrot ready to pull so I can get some color in here as well.

Dirty rice

Medium onion, diced
Any vegetables, fresh or frozen
chop meat, 1/4 pound per serving
couple cloves garlic, smashed and diced
herbs like tarragon, parsley or oregano, fresh or dried
rice, 1/4 to 1/2 cup dry per serving (depending on how you like your meat-to-rice ratio for this dish. Experiment)

Make the rice (takes about 20 minutes; instructions here)

While the rice is cooking, saute the onions in a 1/2 cup of water until all the liquid is gone, immediately add the chop meat. When the meat is about halfway done, add the garlic and the herbs so that the fat releases the oils; this will enhance the flavor of both the meat and the herbs. When the meat is fully browned, add the vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until the veggies turn bright green. I don't drain the fat, but you can do so if you want to once the meat is fully browned and the vegetables have had a chance to wilt a little. Salt and pepper to taste.

Add the rice and mix it well, continue cooking for a few minutes. You can add a little soy sauce here or some brown sugar for color (a teaspoon or less so you don't end up with too-sweet dirty rice). Or not. It tastes great as is.

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