Dirty rice is a traditional Cajun preparation, and it happens to be one of the best uses for giblets ever — especially to those who think they hate eating them. What makes the rice “dirty” is ground up gizzards and minced liver. And when I say “minced,” I really mean chopped almost into a puree. You really never know you’re eating giblets. Seriously.
But this rice is roll-your-eyes-back-in-your-head good! I mean, really, really fantastic. Spicy, meaty, and richly flavored, dirty rice is a perfect side dish, or a light supper on its own.
Do me a favor: If you don’t have any wild game giblets — because you didn’t save them — make this recipe with regular chicken giblets. Please. Then come back and tell me how sorry you were for not saving the gizzards, hearts and livers of all those ducks or geese or pheasants you shot.
I most often use duck giblets for my dirty rice, but pheasant, grouse, wild turkey or really any game bird will do. You can even use the hearts, livers and kidneys from rabbits or squirrels. The only caveat is that small birds like teal or quail are really not worth cleaning the gizzards from. I mean you can if you want, but you get only a smidge of meat. Mallards and geese are ideal, as are wild turkeys and pheasants.
And big game works, too. Grind heart meat and some liver and you’re in business.
Cajun Dirty Rice
As I mentioned above, any sort of livers and naughty bits will work here. I normally use duck or goose giblets, but upland game bird giblets are excellent, as would ground deer liver and heart. The trick to good dirty rice, at least to me, is to get a succession of crusts on the bottom of the frying pan that you scrape away with a wooden spoon. Each crust adds a little more flavor; it’s a technique you see a lot in Italian sugos, which are long-cooked pasta sauces.
Serve this on its own for a light dinner, or as a side dish to gumbo, or roast birds or venison.
Serves 4 to 6.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
- 1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
- 3 tablespoons duck fat, lard or vegetable oil
- 1/2 to 1 cup livers from birds, or about 3 ounces deer liver
- 1/2 to 1 pound of ground meat, from gizzards and hearts or any other ground meat
- 1 1/2 cups meat broth
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
- 1 to 3 hot chiles, anywhere from Tabasco to jalapeno, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 4 green onions. chopped
- Cook the rice as usual. Move the cooked rice to a sheet pan and lay it out to cool. You need to start with cool rice. And yes, you can do this step a day ahead if you want.
- If you are using gizzards, clean them of grit and that silver membrane and either chop fine or grind in a meat grinder. A meat grinder is better, but not everyone has one. Alternately, you can use any ground meat. Either finely grind or finely chop the livers.
- Heat the duck fat over medium-high heat and, when it is hot, add the ground gizzards and the chopped livers. Toss to coat in the fat and then let them sit a bit to develop a crust on the bottom of the pan. Stir only occasionally, as you want to develop a good crust. If your Cajun seasoning isn’t salty, salt the meat now.
- Pour about 1/4 cup of the broth into the pan and use it to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the onion, peppers, celery and garlic. Mix to combine and Cook for a solid 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
- Sprinkle over the oregano and the Cajun seasoning and let a crust form on the bottom of the pan again. When it does, add the rest of the broth and the rice and mix to combine. Scrape the bottom of the pan again. When the liquid has almost totally evaporated, mix in the green onions. You’re ready when the liquid has all evaporated. Serve hot.