Daddy was a cattle farmer. Horses and cows were his passion and he loved sharing it with others. My two sister’s and I were put on the back of a horse at a very young age. We spent time together driving cattle, helping in the cow pen with vaccinations and steer cutting, bottle feeding orphaned calves and all of the other things Daddy’s like mine want their daughters to grow up doing. I realize now they were good learning experiences and didn’t seem much like work after all, except for those twice daily bottle feedings.
About once a year we loaded up the horses and headed to Outside Island where the wild cows lived. The land at Outside Island was passed down to us from my great-grandmother’s side of the family which is wooded and surrounded by marsh. In the early days, the working of the cattle was a big gathering with family and friends. It wasn’t all work, though. We had fun playing in the dusty (sometimes muddy) outdoors, riding horses and even swinging from the long rope outside my great-aunt Mary Lou’s camp. It hung from an old oak dripping with gray moss where we’d fly through the air as high as we could. As rugged as it sounds it’s a beautiful place.
The occasion always included good food and I can still smell the charcoal barbecued steak, chicken, and sausage that were cooking. Right along with all of that meat we usually had rice dressing as a side dish. Yep, more meat! Surprisingly it goes well with barbecue. Rice dressing isn’t as well known as some other Cajun dishes, but I have never known anyone to not like it. My MaMa Trahan would stuff her Christmas turkey with oyster rice dressing. Delicious! It adds a whole other dimension of flavor to the dressing. I’ll have to share it with you later.
I never had cornbread dressing until that first Thanksgiving with my husband’s Mississippi family. I really missed my rice dressing that year, but have learned to enjoy and even make a pretty good cornbread dressing. Come to think of it, I don’t think my own children have ever had a rice dressing, stuffed turkey. Something I’ll have to do this Christmas along with the cornbread dressing, of course.
This recipe is not dirty rice. I didn’t understand the difference between them until my daughter asked recently which one my Mama always made. After researching I discovered that rice dressing is made with beef and pork while dirty rice is made with ground organ meats like livers, hearts, and giblets. One of the beauties of this recipe is you can freeze the stock before adding the rice. Then defrost and just before you serve, heat and stir in the cooked rice. This is so convenient for those days when there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to cook, but your family will think you’re a super-hero! Here’s the recipe:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
2 cups chicken stock or beef broth
1 cup water
1-1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups cooked rice
Make a roux first by heating the oil on medium heat in a large pot like a dutch oven until hot and stir in the flour. Brown until it is a dark caramel color. Be careful not to burn it. Take your time.
You may notice that this roux’s ingredients are a little different from my gumbo recipe. I find that less oil will give it a milder taste.
A good friend of mine gave me this roux spoon. It is flat on the end with a bit of a slant. It makes stirring the roux around a lot easier. I even use it for other things I stir around in my pots. Genius idea!
Next stir the chopped vegetables into the roux.
Now take the vegetables and roux out of the pot and into a bowl to set aside. Add the ground meats to the pot and brown. Drain fat from meat.
Add the roux and vegetable mixture to browned meat. Stir in the chicken stock or beef broth.
Chicken stock is richer than chicken broth, but you can use beef broth if you don’t have any chicken stock.
Next add a cup of water and stir in salt and cayenne pepper. Close the lid and let it simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add 3 cups of cooked rice mixing well.
Some of you who aren’t used to cooking with cayenne pepper have sent me messages saying you were surprised how potent it is. Boy, do I know that first hand! One Sunday morning I ended up making a big pot of spaghetti sauce for company after church. When it came time to add the cayenne pepper I opened up a fresh jar and dropped it in the sauce. It was so strong I had to add more ground meat, tomato sauce and other seasonings to thin out the heat. I held my breath until someone took the first bite and said that it wasn’t too hot at all. Whew!
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity