Dirty Rice

May 19, 2009

Somewhere lives a bad Cajun cook, just as somewhere must live one last ivory billed woodpecker. For me, I don’t expect ever to encounter either one.
~William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways (1982)

Decades after the ivory billed woodpecker was considered to be extinct, researchers found evidence that the majestic bird may still exist. In February, 2004, a lone kayaker spotted this species in the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, an encounter that led to an extensive scientific search for the bird.

Since then, researchers combed the wetlands to collect evidence they believe confirmed the continuing existence of this creature, and it was allegedly sighted more than a dozen times by experts and searchers. Then the trail went somewhat chilly. While the search continues, additional proof of this elusive bird’s emergence from extinction has been the topic of debate.

Cajuns were a regional peoples who originated in southern France, emigrating first to eastern Canada in the early 17th century, and then settling in a colony called Acadia. Refusing to give up their language and religion and unwilling to pledge allegiance to England, the Acadians were deported. In what has been called the Great Upheaval of 1755, Acadians were uprooted by the British and were driven from their homes in the New World. They migrated southward. Now, Cajuns are an ethnic group primarily living in southern Louisiana who are descendents of these exiles from Quebec, the Maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island), and parts of New England. Many settled along the swamplands and waterways of Louisiana and resorted to their traditions of fishing, trapping and farming—making use of the bountiful natural resources there.

Cajuns retain a unique dialect of the French language and a single, prideful cuisine. The food is rustic, home-style, and adaptable to fresh local ingredients.

The aromatic mix of green bell peppers, onions, and celery is often called The Holy Trinity, even though I have blasphemously added red peppers (color) and jalapenos (heat) to this recipe.


2 t cayenne pepper
2 t sea salt
2 t freshly ground black pepper
2 t sweet paprika
1 t dry mustard
1 t cumin seeds, ground
1 t dried thyme leaves
1 t dried oregano leaves

2 T canola oil
1 lb chicken gizzards, chopped
1/2 lb ground pork, coarsely ground
2 bay leaves

3/4 C yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 C green peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 C red peppers, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 C jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 C celery, finely chopped
1 T plump garlic, peeled and minced
3 T unsalted butter
3 C chicken stock
1/2 lb chicken livers, chopped
1 1/2 C long grained rice

Combine the first 8 seasoning ingredients in a small bowl.

In a heavy skillet over medium high heat, cook the canola oil, gizzards, pork and bay leaf until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the seasoning mixture, then the onions, celery, peppers and garlic. Add the butter and stir occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and stirring throughout, for about 8 minutes. Add the stock until and stir occasionally so that the bottom of the pan comes loose, about 8 minutes. Stir in the chicken livers and cook about 2 minutes.

Add the rice andt stir well, reducing the heat to low, for 5 minutes. Cover and remover from heat until the rice is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve.