Cajun dirty rice: 50 cents/serving

If your only experience with dirty rice is adding water to the dried contents of a box of Zatarain’s—and let’s admit, we’ve all been there at some point or another—this recipe is for you. It’s actually cheaper than the boxed stuff and not that much more difficult (just some vegetable chopping here and waiting for the rice cooker there), and you’ll be saving yourself an entire day’s worth of sodium intake. If you’re unfamiliar with the etymology of dirty rice, the “dirty” comes from the brown color. In the authentic* stuff this comes from liver, in the boxed stuff it comes from soy sauce. If you think you don’t like liver, I recommend making it from scratch all the more—it exemplifies all the wonderful, flavorful reasons why people use liver in the first place without managing to taste liver-y.

*And yes, I have eaten the real thing in Louisiana. It was at a Popeyes in Lafayette and we had just gone to a mall and I was tired and suffering from a somewhat disabling case of culture shock, but still. I was in Louisiana. Eating dirty rice.

As below it makes 3 extremely generous servings or 4 normal-sized ones.

• 1 small onion, chopped: 25 cents
• 2 stalks celery, chopped: 18 cents
• 2 large cloves garlic, minced: 2 cents
• 1 jalapeno, de-stemmed and de-seeded, chopped: 14 cents
• 2 T canola oil: 6 cents
• 1/2 cup chicken livers, puréed: 50 cents
• 4 oz. ground pork: 44 cents
• 1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock (I used Better Than Bouillon): 14 cents
• 1/2 bunch green onions, white and green parts chopped (garden): $0
• 2 T chopped parsley, plus more for garnish (garden): $0
• 1/2 tsp ground black pepper: 1 cent
• 1 1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste and for the rice: 1 cent
• 1/2 tsp chili powder: 2 cents
•  1 T dried oregano: 5 cents
• 1 1/3 cups dry white medium-grain rice (or however much your rice cooker needs to equal 3 cups cooked rice): 15 cents
• 2 bay leaves: 1 cent
TOTAL: $1.98/4 = 50 cents/serving

Start the rice in your rice cooker—you’ll need it soon after you start cooking the rest of the dish, so it’s best to do this in advance.

Add the rice, a pinch of salt, the bay leaves, and however much water your rice cooker typically needs—for mine, it’s 2 cups water to every 1 cup rice; for others it’s 1 1/2 cups water to every 1 cup rice. What you need at the end is 3 cups of cooked rice. Consult the manual that came with your model (or the Internet) if you’re unsure of the ratios needed to obtain this.

Heat a large (NOT nonstick, as much of the flavor from this dish is built from the very thing nonstick skillets try to prevent—crispy bits sticking to the bottom of the pan) skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil to heat, then cook the puréed liver and pork until browned.

Add the salt, chili powder, and pepper, and cook for another minute or so. There should be some nice browned crispy bits stuck to the bottom by now. Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of the broth, cook until the pan runs dry again. Add the onion, garlic, celery, jalapeño, and oregano, cook until vegetables are softened, somewhat browned, and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan, between 5 and 8 minutes.

Add the green onions, parsley, 3 cups of cooked rice, and remaining chicken broth. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed and everything is well combined and heated through. Adjust seasoning to taste, garnish with additional parsley.

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