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'Uncle' is a great cook

'Uncle' is a great cook

This fine fellow's name is Roland Scallan, but everybody just calls him "Uncle," even me, though he is in no way related to me. In fact, I've met him face-to-face only once.


Uncle is a genuine, born-and-bred Cajun who can size people up in a hurry, so it takes only one meeting for him to decide if he's going to fool with you more than once. Apparently I passed muster, because whenever his niece, my friend, goes "home" to Baton Rouge for any reason, Uncle sends her back with a whopping heaping helping of his famed and fabulous Dirty Rice -- for me, lucky me.


He cooks it in a big cast iron Dutch oven using browned ground beef, though, he says, sometimes the more traditional chicken livers, too.


You will find as many different recipes for dirty rice as there are cooks who make it, but basically it's done like a pilaf, and at least in our house, it was an excuse to use up giblets whenever Mama bought a chicken for frying or broiling or a fricassee. Home cooks like my mother (who'd be 100 if she were alive today) never used recipes and often made a dish differently every time they made it because they used what was at hand, whatever they could substitute at the time.


If you take the link, above, you'll find another link to a step-by-step recipe with instructional photographs for making dirty rice, or you can try the one that follows from "Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen." Either way will be good, but not as good as Uncle's, because it won't have the care he puts into it.


DIRTY RICE


I'm going to go ahead and give the ingredients for Paul's seasoning mix, but feel free to substitute any Creole seasoning mix you have on hand.


Seasoning mix:
2 teaspoons ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1-1/4 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
2 tablespoons chicken fat or vegetable oil
1/2 pound chicken gizzards, ground (or finely chopped)
1/4 pound ground pork (or beef)
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chicken stock
1/3 pound chicken livers, ground (or finely chopped)
3/4 cup uncooked rice, preferably converted


Combine the seasoning mix ingredients (through oregano leaves) in a small bowl and set aside.


Place the chicken fat, gizzards, pork and bay leaves in a large skillet over high heat; cook until meat is thoroughly browned, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the seasoning mix, then add the onions, celery, bell peppers and garlic; stir thoroughly, scraping pan bottom well. Add the butter and stir until melted. Reduce heat to medium and cook about 8 minutes, stirring constantly and scarping pan bottom well (if you're not using a heavy-bottomed skillet, the mixture probably will stick a lot).


Add the stock and stir until the mixture sticking to the bottom comes loose; cook about 8 minutes over high heat, stirring once. Then stir in the chicken livers and cook about 2 minutes.


Add the rice and stir thoroughly; cover pan and turn heat to very low; cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered until rice is tender, about 10 minutes (the rice is finished this way so as not to overcook the livers and to preserve their delicate flavor).


Remove bay leaves and serve immediately.


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