New Orleans is made up of such a spicy mix of people, so is it any wonder that this is reflected not only in their history, but also their food as well. I still remember my first visit to New Orleans when I was a teenager. I couldn't help but stare wide-eyed in wonder as we wandered around the French Quarter doing the typical tourist things. We went on walking tours and learned about history, the good times, the hard times, and the desperate times. I grew to appreciate how frank many of our guides were, not trying to hide the rougher side of history from the children in the groups. The people of New Orleans are proud, resilient people and the love they have for their city came through loud and clear with each new story I was told.
After a full day of wandering the city on our tours or trips through Jackson Square to see the street artists and fortune tellers, I was absolutely famished. The highlight to the end of my day was always where we were going for dinner and what new things I would discover that night. I often took the time to ask our waiter or waitress about the items on the menu that I didn't recognize. The cuisine was like nothing I had ever sampled before and they were always glad to point out not only their favorites, but items I would only find in their city. This was how I first discovered dirty rice and my love for it only grew every time I ordered it.
I ended up ordering it at nearly every meal while we were visiting. Some occasions it was a main dish and other times it accompanied blackened chicken or Cajun shrimp. I sampled it with chicken hearts, gizzards, liver and spicy sausage, sometimes it had only one or two of those, other times it was a mixture of all four. Sometimes it was mildly spicy and other times it would burn your mouth off, making sure you never forgot having tried it. With every new cook their was a new version to try. I remember one person telling me that their mama made dirty rice at the end of every week, tossing in whatever leftover scraps were laying about so they wouldn't go to waste. My unfiltered teenage mouth of course had to say, oh, so it's like my mother's pot pie (which I love BTW.) He doubled over laughing and I was incredibly grateful that my mother didn't hear me.
My first trip to New Orleans cemented my love for the city and it's people as well as their cuisine. With Mardi Gras coming up soon I thought that I would share my version of Dirty Rice using Andouille Sausage rather than the traditional chicken liver and gizzards. I hope you enjoy it.
Dirty Rice with Andouille Sausage
makes 4-6 servings, can be easily doubled or tripled to feed a large group
2 Cups uncooked rice (I used jasmine white from Super Lucky Elephant)
1 heaping Tablespoon Cajun seasoning
2 Tablespoons bacon drippings
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 Andouille Sausage, diced (approximately 7oz)
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more as necessary
- Prepare rice according to instructions listed on the package, adding 1 heaping Tablespoon of Cajun seasoning to the water before cooking.
- Dice celery, yellow onion, red bell pepper and Andouille sausage and set aside.
- In a skillet over medium heat, melt 2 Tablespoons of bacon drippings, then add diced ingredients. Cook until onions are slightly transparent and tender, then add to cooked rice.
- Add optional red pepper flakes, mix well, then serve.
If you don't have bacon drippings available cook up a batch of bacon over the weekend and save the drippings for later. They have an incredibly long shelf life when kept in a sealed container and refrigerated. Otherwise you can substitute butter or oil.