The book: The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, by Matt Lee & Ted Lee (Clarkson Potter, $35)
The recipe: Dirty Rice and Greens
Why I tried it: It was one of those moments when you can feel your food opinions shifting. My husband was talking about how much he loved chicken livers, and I was thinking about how much I wished I did. At some point the words “especially in dirty rice” were spoken. I stumbled on this recipe not long after, and I knew the moment had come for that Ziploc of saved-up livers that had been lingering in the freezer for months.
Why I loved it: There is just so much going on in this dish – the sausage, the bacon, the aromatics, the organ meat! You’d think that it really would taste blurry, or “dirty,” instead of just looking the part. Yet by the time all is said and done, it’s a savory, cohesive potful of goodness. As for the liver, it retreats into a kind of rich, basso profundo backdrop. You probably wouldn’t know what it was if you didn’t want to, and you’d miss it if it wasn’t there.
Estimated preparation time: About 45 minutes. The Lees are refreshingly accurate about prep times (rather than wildly optimistic, which is the usual way with cookbooks that offer an estimate). It’s one of the things I like about them.
Click here for my complete list of 2013 cookbook recommendations.
Dirty Rice and Greens
1 tablespoon peanut, canola, or olive oil
¹⁄³ pound sweet or hot Italian sausage (about 1 link), cut from the casing and crumbled
1 slice thick-cut bacon
5 ounces chicken livers (about 3 large)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 large cloves)
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups long-grain white rice
2 cups cooked seasoned greens, e.g. slow-cooked collards, roughly chopped
1. Pour the oil into a 6- to 8-quart cast-iron pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the sausage and the bacon slice, flipping the bacon a few times to render its grease while pushing the sausage around with a wooden spoon to brown evenly. After 2 to 3 minutes, when the sausage is not visibly raw, add the chicken livers, pushing them around and mashing them with the spoon to break them down as they cook, about 2 minutes.
2. Add the red pepper flakes, onion, garlic, thyme, salt, and black pepper and stir to mix evenly. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to give up some moisture. Add the rice and stir until the grains are glazed with oil.
3. Add 4 cups of water, stir until evenly distributed, and cover. When the liquid comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, until the rice is tender and the liquid is nearly gone.
4. Turn off the heat and add the cooked collard greens, stirring just enough to combine. Cover again and allow to steam for 5 minutes before serving. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Reprinted from the book The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen. Copyright © 2013 by Matt Lee & Ted Lee. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc.