Dirty Rice Stuffed Peppers
This dish, while not of the quick and easy variety, can be made ahead of time, so it's a good candidate for the upcoming holiday weekend. Not for the main event but for the other meals that come with having a houseful of holiday visitors: Wednesday night supper, when you're busy thinking about the next day and don't want to cook dinner, or Saturday evening when everyone's sick of turkey sandwiches. Pull these babies out of the refrigerator, pop them in the oven and you've got an interesting casual dinner ready to go.
I've been on a campaign to use up ingredients that have my freezers pushing back at the doors when I try to close them, and this combination of two old favorites was developed to respond to my discovery of a pound of chicken livers and a bag of chicken trimmings waiting to be made into broth. Putting that together with the fact that I had some peppers that wanted to be used up and, as always, some leftover rice on hand, I just naturally ended up with Dirty Rice Stuffed Peppers. It's Cajun food lite, since it can be made mildly spiced, allowing diners can heat it up with hot sauce if they like, which makes it perfect for a dinner which might include picky eaters, as often happens when the extended family gathers.
Served with a simple green salad, some crusty bread, a nice pale ale and some leftover pumpkin pie, this dish will keep the hordes happy for another day.
Dirty Rice Stuffed Peppers
4 medium red, yellow or green bell peppers
2 C cooked white rice
1 lb chicken livers
3 C water
3 sprigs parsley
1/2 lb chicken trimmings, skin, etc.
2 medium onions
1 rib celery, chopped
scallions, green parts only, chopped
2 eggs, beaten slightly
1 C plain bread crumbs
1/4 C flour
cayenne pepper to taste
salt to taste
Place the water, livers, and chicken trimmings in a pot over high heat. Bring the water to a boil and skim off the foam. Reduce to a simmer, add the parsley and one of the onions, halved, and simmer for about 8 minutes. Remove the livers and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes. Chop the livers in fine dice and set aside.
Meanwhile, make a dark roux. Place 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Scatter in the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a metal spoon, about 20 minutes, moderating heat so that the roux does not burn. It will darken by degrees until it is the color of dark chocolate syrup. Remove from heat.
Strain the broth and add to the roux. Add the celery. Chop the remaining onion and one of the peppers and add them to the mixture. Simmer slowly about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Mix the chopped livers into the gravy and simmer for another minute, stirring. Remove from heat. Correct seasoning with salt and cayenne pepper.
Cut the remaining peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes. Place in an oiled baking dish, cut sides up. Mix the rice, 2 cups of the gravy (stir well to be sure you get plenty of the liver, which will sink to the bottom), the eggs and 1/2 the breadcrumbs. Fill the peppers with the rice mixture, mounding the rice above the rim of the peppers. Moisten the remaining breadcrumbs with a tablespoon or two of gravy and spread it on top of the rice stuffing. (May be made ahead to this point and refrigerated. Allow to warm to room temperature before continuing.)
Allow to rest 5 - 10 minutes. To serve, ladle a pool of the remaining gravy on a platter and add the peppers. Spoon some more gravy over the peppers and scatter on the scallion greens. At the table, pass any remaining gravy in a bowl along with a bottle of hot sauce.
Note: If you don't have chicken trimmings handy, replace the water and the trimmings with 3 cups low sodium chicken broth.