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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dirty Rice

I love Dirty Rice from Pappadeaux's Restaurant.  I've never eaten it anywhere else and really didn't know much about it other than it appeared to be a really spicy dish with rice and sausage.  My husband mentioned Dirty Rice the other day which put a bug in my brain to add it to our weekly menu!

Seemed like it would be fairly simple.  I felt like I had the basics on hand, having bought a chub of pork sausage in last week's shopping.  Next step would be seeking out a good recipe.  I started with a search for the recipe from Pappadeaux's.  Knew it wouldn't likely be out there, but hopefully something close.  What did I immediately discover?  OMG!  Chicken Livers. Gizzards. WHAT???  Ewwww.

I put it aside for a bit then went back to search for other recipes for Dirty Rice.  Low and behold, everything I found had chicken livers.  I repeat, ewwww.

I am not a liver fan - whether it be cow or chicken.  It's a no go in my kitchen.  My first job was in my family's meat market and handling liver was just the thing the guys thought would be funny for the boss's daughter to have to do.  I repeat ewwww.

I waited until the day of the Dirty Rice entry on my weekly menu to arrive, thinking I'd just try it with the pork sausage and use the Emeril Lagasse recipe I found on Food Network.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the undefined taste I enjoyed so much in the restaurant just might be chicken livers.  So, I put on my big girl panties and hied myself to the grocery store to find a plastic container of chicken livers.  Hey, chicken livers are pretty darn cheap!  My friend says they use them to fish with.  Gracious, I'd rather handle a worm!

I didn't take photos of the process because, truly, I didn't expect to find it was something I was going to recommend.  I grabbed photos at the end after I made Mr. Flip Flop give it a taste.  He said it was good but spicy!  Anyway, onwards.

I got home and pulled up the recipes I'd marked and made the final decision to do the Emeril thang.  I had some Essence on hand, brown rice instead of white because that's how we roll, and I grabbed a green bell pepper at the store because we usually eat red bell pepper.  I'm not really a bell pepper fan but my husband is, so the way we compromise is to buy the milder red version.  It works okay - especially if I cut the pieces large enough to pick out or make them so small I can't identify them.  I don't mind it as a background taste, just don't like biting into one.

Here'e the link to the Emeril Lagasse original recipe and then the way I made it outlined below.

Dirty Rice
based on Emeril Lagasse Recipe


3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil - divided
1 1/4 pound chicken livers, washed, drained and patted dry
1/2 pound original pork sausage (Owen's brand is good)
1/2 large yellow sweet onion - cut into large chunks
1/3 green bell pepper, seeds and white membrane removed - chunked
2 stalks celery, large chop (use tops too)
2 tsp. minced garlic (I used 4 cloves through a garlic press)
1 Tbsp Emeril's Essence (available on most spice aisles at the grocery store)
 but if not found, there is a recipe for the mix at the link to his recipe above.
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
1 can (14.5 oz) Swanson's chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4 cups brown rice - used 2 bags frozen rice in steamable bags (had 2 cups each)
1 cup long grain white rice - used 1/2 bag of the frozen stuff leftover from previous meal
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian Parsley


Heat a large skillet or deep Dutch Oven with 2 Tbsp of the vegetable oil over a medium high heat.

In a food processor, pulse chicken livers until small chunks (just takes 3 or 4 pulses).  There's a method to my madness - I didn't have to touch the livers in a manual chopping process.  It worked!

Add the sausage first to the hot oil, crumbling into small pieces and then add the chopped liver pieces to the pan.  Saute until brown for 6 to 8 minutes.

Rinse the liver juice from the processor bowl (you probably don't need to but I just had to).
Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic to processor bowl and pulse a few times to obtain a fine chop, but not a puree.

Add the last tablespoon of vegetable oil to the meat mixture and add the vegetable mix, scraping down the food processor bowl to get it all.  Stir in Essence, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes until everything is well incorporated and softened.

Add the chicken broth and bay leaves, stir mixture, scraping any bits from bottom of pan.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer for 5 minutes.

If you are using frozen rice - pop it into the microwave for about 60 seconds.  Should be cold, but not frozen.  I put all the bags in at once.

After the broth has simmered for 5 minutes, add all of the rice and stir together thoroughly.  The rice should absorb any excess liquid.  Continue simmering for about 5 or 7 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

Remove from heat, remove the bay leaves, add the chopped parsley and serve.
In the pan right before the addition of parsley

We had skillet cornbread with our meal and it helped to offset the spicy heat that was burning my tongue a bit.  The brown rice made everything a slightly different texture and my recipe didn't dry out as much as I have had at the restaurant.  To me, that was a good thing.

We really liked it and I'm sort of over the ewww-ishness regarding chicken livers.  My hubs loves liver, but I don't think it will ever be a staple on my weekly menus!  Dirty Rice, though, I can handle!

Quite delicious and you really can't see pieces of liver.
If I wasn't so opposed to white rice, it would have
likely looked more like you are used to seeing it!
We're a brown rice family though!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Yes, I snuck in some carrots!

We love pasta and it can always be counted on for making a quick week-night supper.  I am generally fine using a good quality jarred Marinara sauce, but always kick it up by adding things we enjoy - extra basil, ground beef seasoned with garlic and onion... that sort of thing.

My granddaughters, however, inform me their Dad never uses pre-made sauce.  He always makes his own.  So, I decided I would make the effort and make some sauce of my own, freeze it, and have it available for those days this Summer when the grand-kids are here and pasta is on the menu.

I've done it before but it always seemed to not thicken.  Today's effort is going to involve a longer cook-down time, hopefully reducing more of the water from the sauce.  Dinner tonight is to be an all vegetable sauce over Cappellini.  So, let's get started!

Debbi's Marinara


1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
3 cups water
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 medium onions - medium diced
2 small carrots - small diced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 cloves garlic thinly sliced with my Martha Stewart Garlic Slicer/Press
3 cloves garlic rubbed with kosher salt to make a paste
2 of my ice cubes of olive oil with fresh basil
1 Tbsp granulated sugar

More fresh basil to finish with
Salt and pepper to taste


Add olive oil to bottom of stock pot and heat on medium.  Add onion and carrots and sprinkle with salt.

Cook gently until soft but not browned (about 6 to 8 minutes).  Add all of the garlic, the dried oregano and the "ice cubes" of olive oil and frozen fresh basil (see this post for how to preserve your fresh basil).

Stir for about 3 minutes to soften garlic.  Do not let it brown.  Add some pepper at this point - I added a large pinch.   If you like a little kick to your sauce, this might be a time to add some red pepper flakes.

Add tomato paste and stir for 2 to 3 minutes to remove the raw taste, then add the large cans of crushed and whole tomatoes.  Finally add the cubed tomatoes, sugar, more pepper if desired, and a few pinches of salt.  Mix everything thoroughly.
My husband grew up where they can
Red Gold tomatoes - if they have it
at our grocery store - I always try
to use their products!

Add three cups of water (I rinse my tomato cans with about a cup of water - so this amount is an estimate) - stir to combine.

Bring to low simmer for one hour.  Check for taste - add more salt and pepper if it tastes too bland.  You want to season little amounts throughout the process, remembering that as it reduces, it becomes more concentrated.  An "average" amount of salt now, might taste too salty at the end of the process.  Be conservative.
You can see how much it has reduced.  All the veg is nice and
soft and ready to move to the  next step!

Continue on simmer for another hour.  Check to ensure all vegetables are falling apart soft.  If so, use an immersion stick to blend everything to a "roughly smooth" texture and allow to cook another hour (three hours total - as a minimum - I let it go for a total of 5 hours on a very low heat for the last two after blending).

Taste for final salt and/or pepper needs - add some fresh basil  - amount determined by your taste (roughly chopped or torn leaves) and allow to cook for 10-15 more minutes.  Serve over pasta at this point or cool completely and bag for freezing.  I made dinner with some of the sauce, bagged up 3 FoodSaver bags full for the freezer, and loaded up a jar for the fridge (which will be used within the week).  This sauce had a wonderful texture and a light, summery taste!

All-in-all a good day of cooking.  The house smelled great. Dinner tasted delicious.  Mr. Flip Flop said it was very good ... alls well that ends well!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


Monday, May 18, 2015

Saving Fresh Basil...for later use!

I always have more fresh basil than I can use from my little pots on the deck.  Every year I think "I need to find a way that works to preserve this basil"!  Yet, I never do.  Either bugs or the first cold snap gets them and I start over the next Spring.  Drying has never garnered a happy result and none of the other "saver" systems seem to work for me.

This year, I bought some plastic ice cube trays from the dollar store and tried the "freeze in olive oil" method I'd heard of in the past.

The unfortunate thing was the ice cube trays were hard plastic.  When I banged them to get the olive oil and basil ice cubes out - the trays cracked and broke.  I was able to get the cubes out with a sharp knife along the edge - but lesson learned.  If you want to try this, get some soft plastic ice cube trays that bend so you may twist and pop out the end product...otherwise, you will be throwing away the ice cube trays!

I did these a few weeks ago and didn't take pictures, but it was a really easy process.  I harvested all of the basil that had new growth starting - my plants looked bare, except for the baby leaves, but they have already filled out again (per the photo at the top) and it will be time to harvest again very soon.  I'm always pinching them back so they don't flower and seed as well.

Once I had my "harvest" - which was the amount of a loosely packed freezer size Ziploc bag - I brought them in and rough chopped on the cutting board.  I equally divided the chopped basil between each ice cube compartment and added olive oil to fill just below the edge of the compartment.  I placed the ice cube tray on a small baking sheet and popped it into the freezer and left it over night.

The next day I took them out and began the previously mentioned debacle of getting them out of the ice cube tray.  I did realize that the longer I messed with them, the more the warmth of my hands began to melt the olive oil, which allowed some to slide right out.  They did eventually all come out, but then I had leaky olive oil cubes.  I refroze on the baking sheet for about thirty minutes to take care of the warmed olive oil and then quickly transferred them to the quart-sized Ziploc freezer bag for storage.

I'm so pleased with the outcome.  I'm using a couple of these for the first time as I make a new Marinara Sauce recipe.  I'll post the link as soon as I finish writing the post!  For now - this was a viable way to preserve my Spring and Summer basil harvest.  I envision popping these cubes into various food preparations calling for both olive oil and basil!  Love having an option beyond dried basil in my food supplies! (I also think you can do pesto this way - but I haven't tried it...YET!)

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!