rice

dirty rice

I was a wee one when I had my first taste of dirty rice, and it was from Popeye’s. Something about the deep savoriness of this mean little concoction made it one of my favorite Cajun dishes. (For a quick lesson on the difference between Cajun and Creole food, visit my entry on crawfish boils.) And then I found out years later that offal is what makes dirty rice taste so damn good. Who knew? A recent food trend is food that used to be considered less palatable, I.e. Food the lower socioeconomic levels partook in. Think the leftover parts of an animal—offal—such as livers, gizzards, oxtail, feet, snout, ears. For vegetables, think collard greens, mustard greens, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and so on. And so with this trend, we see a rise in these sorts of ingredients becoming gourmet. And with the gourmet status comes the hefty price tag. So what can you do? Learn to make it yourself.

A handful of friends from my Creative Writing Program at UH recently graduated. And while they were becoming Masters of Fine Arts, I was off trying to become a MasterChef. Alas, I am sad to see some of my bestest writer buds move away on to bigger and better things, but I cherish the past four years we’ve had together. There were many discussions about literature, the writing craft, existentialism, and just about any possible subject under the sun and even beyond. (Because, you know, us writers are just so deep.) So as a farewell/graduation/appreciation celebration, I wanted to share myself and cook a meal for them. After all, they spent the last four painful years reading pages and pages of my manuscripts; the least I could do is finally give them something good to ingest.

I know the basic gist of dirty rice involves poultry offal—namely livers and gizzards—the trinity (two parts onion to one part celery and one part bell pepper); and rice. My next door neighbor, who makes a bad-ass dirty rice every year for our day-after-Thanksgiving leftovers potluck, promised to cook it with me one day, but I figured I’d try on my own first before I learn his secrets and then meld all of it together into one superpower dirty rice.

So here you have my first run at dirty rice. Yeah, I was brave to experiment on my friends, but I know they love me enough to still be my friend even if the food tasted bad. Luckily, the dirty rice was pretty darn good. And it tastes even better if you let the flavors melt together overnight. I used this to stuff some slutty chickens (as Chef Ramsay calls them)—more on that next time. Till then, make a vat and share; it’s an easy recipe for a crowd. If the Blind can Cook it, you can too.


Dirty Rice

Ingredients

  1. 1 lb. chicken gizzards, washed & rinsed
  2. 1 lb. chicken livers, washed, rinsed & trimmed
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 c. chopped onion
  5. 1/2 c. chopped celery
  6. 1/2 c. chopped green bell pepper
  7. 4 c. chicken broth
  8. 4 c. uncooked Minute rice
  9. 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley leaves
  10. cayenne pepper to taste
  11. salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook the minute rice according to package directions using chicken broth instead of water.
  2. Pulse the gizzards in a food processor until crumb-sized. Set aside. Then pulse liver until almost liquified.
  3. In a lg. Skillet, sauté the garlic until fragrant. Cook the meats until browned.
  4. Add the vegetables and salt & pepper, and cook until tender. If the mixture is too wet, let it reduce.
  5. Gently fold in the rice. Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper. Garnish with parsley.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

stock & congee: what to do with all that leftover turkey

Our deep-fried turkey before it became a bare carcass.

Your crazy family came and went. Now all that’s left is a big ol’ turkey carcass. Wait, don’t throw anything away just yet. In this time and age when offal eating has become the trend, I’m going to show you what you can do with all those leftover turkey bones.

First, you make turkey stock. Duh! Then, you use that stock to make turkey congee.

Every Asian country has its own version of rice porridge. It’s the ultimate Asian comfort food. Think of the Americans with their chicken noodle soup. Well, the Asians have their rice porridge. It’s what you feed someone under the weather. I admit I used to hate congee or chao (as it’s called in Vietnamese) because it was all my mama let me eat when I was sick. Incidentally, I grew to associate congee only with illness. Of course it left a negative impression on me. But now that I’ve got no mama to cook me homemade congee, I had to roll up my sleeves and do it myself. Now I don’t necessarily eat congee just when I’m sick; I’ll eat it when it’s cold out. (Speaking of which, Houston is finally starting to feel like winter. Yippee!) I eat it because it’s hearty, warm, and best of all, simple to make. I almost always have the ingredients on hand to make congee, but even if I don’t, the great thing about congee is its versatility. You can just about throw anything into it. Perhaps the only requirement is stock or broth and rice. (I’ve even seen some people cook congee with plain water but I don’t recommend this—too plain.)

So read on, and learn how to make turkey stock with that leftover carcass and then, subsequently, turkey congee. And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you. Happy winter eating!

 

: Turkey Stock

: Stock can be made from any animal’s bones, but I especially like poultry stock made from chicken, duck, or turkey.

 

  1. 1 bird carcass
  2. 2 to 3 carrots, chopped into 2″ pcs.
  3. 2 to 3 celery stalks, cut into 2″ pcs.
  4. 1 med. onion, chopped
  5. 1 to 2 bay leaves

 

  1. If necessary, chop bones so they will fit into a stockpot. Place bones into a stockpot and fill with enough water to cover. Add carrots, celery, onion, and bay leaves. Bring almost to a boil but do not let it boil.
  2. Reduce heat. In the first hr., skim off any scum that floats to the surface. Cover and let simmer for approx 3 hrs.
  3. Turn off heat and let cool. Strain through a mesh sieve into containers, leaving 1/2″ space at the top. (This is to prevent the containers from busting when the stock expands in the freezer.) Discard bones and vegetables.
  4. Refrigerate overnight. Spoon out and discard any gelatenous fat that solidifies at the top before using or freezing.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 3 hour(s)

: Turkey Congee

: Chao is the Vietnamese term for congee.

 

  1. 1 c. uncooked jasmine rice
  2. 4 to 6 c. turkey stock
  3. 3/4 c. leftover turkey meat, shredded
  4. 1/2 med. onion, chopped
  5. 1 sm. pc. ginger, minced
  6. 1 to 2 carrots, peeled & finely chopped (optional)
  7. 2 tbsp. fish sauce or to taste
  8. 1 scallion, finely chopped
  9. a few sprigs cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
  10. ground black pepper

 

  1. In a med. saucepan, combine rice, stock, turkey meat, onion, ginger, and carrots if using. Bring to a low boil.
  2. Reduce heat and add fish sauce. Cover and let simmer for approx. 25 min. or until rice reaches desired consistency. Season with ground black pepper and more fish sauce to taste. Garnish with scallion and cilantro. Serve hot.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

sweet rice with chinese sausage

Xoi ga lap xuong

Salty from the sausage, sweet from the rice

It’s been a while since I posted a recipe or talked about cooking, for that matter. Enough with all that blind stuff, eh? Let’s take a break from all the tech talk and get back in the kitchen. Last week was my mama’s birthday–she would’ve turned 61–so here’s a dish from her repertoire. A comfort food I crave every so often is xoi lap xuong, a very easy dish to prepare using sticky, sweet rice and Chinese sausage. My mother used to make this and shape the rice into a perfect circle, spreading the sausage in one layer on top so that each bite contained exactly one slice of the dark red, fatty meat. Because this dish was so delicious, I thought it took a lot of skill to make. Little did I know after experimenting in the kitchen years later that xoi lap xuong was a very simple meal.

There are many different components to this dish, and it’s one of those things that different mamas prepare them in different ways. Here is my version along with some possible variations noted below. This is definitely a dish where if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

 

: Sweet Rice with Chinese Sausage

: Xoi Lap Xuong

 

  1. 1.5 c. uncooked sweet rice
  2. 1/4 to 1/2 c. raw peanuts
  3. 4 to 6 Chinese sausage, sliced on the bias
  4. 3 stalks scallions, finely chopped
  5. 3 shallot cloves, finely sliced
  6. 2 tbsp. oil

 

  1. Steam rice and peanuts together in a rice cooker.
  2. In a lg. skillet, heat oil over med.-high heat. Add scallions and shallots and saute until tender, approx. 5 min. Set aside in a bowl.
  3. In the same skillet, pan-fry Chinese sausage over med. heat, stirring frequently until crispy. Using a slotted spoon, set aside.
  4. Serve Chinese sausage over sticky rice. Drizzle oil and scallion and shallot mixture over the top. Season with Maggi sauce.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

 

Since my husband was on a pork fast, I made some chicken for him to eat with the sticky rice. Take 6 chicken thighs and cut into pieces. Marinade with 1 tbsp. honey, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, and salt & pepper to taste. After cooking the Chinese sausage, cook the chicken in the same skillet, using the sausage fat for flavor. You can also serve finely shredded pork (thit cha bong or thit ruoc) over the top–it looks like carpet meat but I grew up with the stuff. You can also added dried onion bits or crispy pork skin. Like I said, there is not one right way to eat this. The only constants are the sweet rice, the oil and scallion mixture, and the Maggi sauce.

broccoli rice casserole

Recounting the first Thanksgiving I ever hosted back in 2001 (the year I graduated college and finally had a kitchen and place I could call my very own), in addition to the deep-fried turkey, I made this broccoli rice casserole. I probably found the recipe online but I honestly don’t remember where–it could’ve possibly been before I discovered All Recipes.

Regardless, it was very simple to make, and my dad raved about it, asking to take home a chunky portion as part of his Thanksgiving leftovers. My friend, Mark, also asked for the recipe, followed by Danny years later. Nearly going on its tenth year in the making, this dish is a must-have at all my holiday comfort food gatherings. I’ve also brought it to several potlucks; up or down the ingredients according to number of people. Remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.

Note: I’ll upload a photo of the dish come Thanksgiving when we actually make it. For now. here’s a photo of the Pancake Bunny.



Pancake bunny

Do you like my new hat?



Recipe: Broccoli Rice Casserole

Ingredients

  • 20 oz. frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
  • 2 (10.75 oz.) cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 16 oz. processed cheese, melted
  • 3/4 c. minced onion
  • 2 c. uncooked minute rice
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook minute rice as directed.
  2. In a med. pan, saute onion in butter over med.-high heat until yellowed.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. In a lg. bowl, mix broccoli, onion, cheese, cream of mushroom, rice, and salt & pepper to taste until well-blended. Pour mixture into a 10″x13″ casserole dish. Bake for 60 min. or until edges are browned.

Quick Notes

I personally like the edges and even the top pretty brown. It adds flavor and texture.

For the cheese, I like to use Cheez-Whiz.

Cooking time (duration): 75

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: dinner

Culinary tradition: USA (Traditional)

Microformatting by hRecipe.

mushroom risotto

Risotto is something you always hear about on those ever-so-popular reality cooking shows of late. You have the amateur chefs sweating over the hot stove, their arms tired from the constant stirring motion. And in the end, the judges always remark in their British accent that the risotto is “unduh-cooked, ovuh-cooked…” So of course, you avoid attempting risotto in your own kitchen.

Well, I’m here to tell you if the Blind can Cook it, so can you. Sure, it’s tedious–you willhave to stand over the stove and possibly sweat for an hour, and yes, your arms may ache. But if you’re tenacious and follow the fairly simple recipe, you will have restaurant-quality risotto. All it takes is time and patience.

This mushroom risotto was the accompaniment to the scallops for Jade and Uyen’s birthday dinner. Everyone raved about it; I think it was the favorite (with the exception of John since he isn’t fond of mushrooms). You can serve it as a side dish, but it’s good enough to eat alone. Thanks to Myleen on All Recipes for the original version. Remember: if the Blind can Cook it, so can you. Bon appetit!




Recipe: Mushroom Risotto

Summary: My version of the Gourmet Mushroom Risotto from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 6 c. chicken broth
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 portobello mushroom caps, coarsely chopped
  • 1 reg. pkg. white mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1.5 c. arborio rice
  • 1/2 c. dry white wine
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 stalk green onion or 3 tbsp. chives, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/3 c. parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan, warm chicken broth over low heat.
  2. Warm 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove mushrooms with their liquids, and set aside.
  3. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil into the large saucepan, and stir in shallots. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, add wine, stirring constantly until wine is fully absorbed. Add 1/2 c. broth to the rice, stirring constantly until broth is fully absorbed. Continue adding 1/2 c. broth at a time, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed and rice is al dente, about 45 to 60 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in mushrooms with their liquid, butter, cheese, and green onion or chives. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Cooking time (duration): 90

Diet type: Vegetarian

Meal type: supper

Culinary tradition: Italian

Microformatting by hRecipe.

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