|OFFAL BRINGS OUT THE BEST IN CAJUN DIRTY RICE|
A lot of people would never go anywhere near offal, let alone eat it. Then there are others who love liver and kidney and gizzard and tripe, as well as other parts I am not familiar with.
Offal is often called the nasty bits (Serious Eats has a section dedicated to animal innards called The Nasty Bits which I find rather informative).
I don't think offal is nasty. You want nasty, just look at items like processed food and mock meat products. No doubt they taste good, what with all the artificial flavourings and salt in them, but these things will remain in your body long after... you know.
However, I don't eat offal all that much. The parts are a little too gamey for me (although I have enjoyed chicken intestine satay). And I've never cooked any of it before. So how did I end up making Cajun dirty rice, which gets its name from its appearance which comes from various innards, and loving it?
A book. And not even a cook book.
Towards the end of the novel The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom, the protagonist Israel Armstrong – a vegetarian who lives on a chicken farm in Ireland – smells some chicken livers being prepared by his landlady and they remind him of "a homely smell... it smelt of parents, And Saturday traffic outside. It smelt of north London."
Depending on race and religion, the more popular livers with Malaysians come from cows or pigs; chicken livers don't get much of a look-in in local recipes, so they are quite cheap and the chicken hearts are thrown in as well since they're already attached to the lobes.
Israel Armstrong's recollection of how much he loves chicken livers gets me excited about them as well, so I go get some and pan-fry them in a "Western" style with balsamic vinegar (pictured right).
Only they are so much more delicious on the page. They didn't bring back nice memories for me.The next day, I got some chicken gizzards and a few other ingredients, put them together with the cooked chicken livers and made dirty rice. And then, the livers got homely.
Cajun Dirty Rice
1 cup long-grain rice
1 cup chicken stock*
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp butter
4 chicken livers
4 chicken hearts
2 chicken gizzards
1 spicy sausage, finely diced
½ large onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
½ green capsicum, seeded and finely chopped
½ tbsp Cajun/Creole seasoning (ready-made or make your own; recipe follows)
A dash of Worcestershire sauce
Salt to taste
1-2 jalapeños, seeded and chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
Wash rice and cook with the water and chicken stock concentrate in a rice cooker or another way.
While the rice is cooking, mash and finely chop the chicken livers. Finely chop the chicken hearts and gizzards. In a large pan that can eventually hold the rice, heat the oil and butter. Add the liver, hearts, gizzard and sausage and cook over medium-low heat until brown and slightly crisp.
Turn up the heat slightly and add the onions, celery, and bell peppers to brown. If the bottom of the pan gets crusty, add 2-3 tbsp of water to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the Creole/Cajun seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and salt to taste; turn the heat to high. Boil away most of the liquid and add the cooked rice and jalapeños. Toss to combine.
Turn off the heat and stir in the spring onions. Serve hot.
* Use homemade chicken stock if available, but it can be made by adding a stock cube or ½ tbsp chicken stock concentrate to hot water
Makes about ¼ cup
2½ tsp paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme