I love a classic brunch of pancakes, eggs and bacon as much as one could possibly love a meal, but sometimes, sometimes the occasion calls for something a bit more savory, a tad more unusual, a pinch more piquant.
That is when I make dirty rice for brunch—a savory, highly seasoned melange of rice and beans.
This meal has an almost limitless array of permutations. My favorites for brunch:
1. Dirty rice served over dressed baby greens and topped with a fried egg sunny-side-up.
2. Dirty rice topped with chili and melted cheese.
3. Dirty rice served with fresh salsa, sliced avocado, and a soft-boiled egg.
The eggs and cheese are optional, and I’m sure there are many more combinations I haven’t even thought of yet. First, however, the centerpiece is essential.
- Oil—coconut, sunflower, or other vegetable… enough to cook the rest of these ingredients.
- Onion (red or yellow)—one small (or one half large), roughly chopped.
- Chorizo (optional)—two inches, chopped.
- Red and green bell pepper—one quarter of each, diced.
- Other veggies—go wild. I like carrots or sweet potato.
- Garlic—3 cloves (or more or less to taste), chopped.
- Rice—2 cups. (This recipe uses white rice. If you use brown, adjust for quantities of liquid and time.)
- Beans (black, red or white)—one can.
- Liquid—3 cups comprised of canned chopped tomatoes, stock or bullion mixed with hot water, and liquid from beans.
- Tomato paste (optional)—one spoonful.
- Jalapeño (or other spicy pepper)—to taste, chopped or sliced. I like to use at least one whole jalapeño.
- Spices—cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper, bay leaf.
Bonus: this is a one-pot meal. Serves two for two days, so it could probably fill up to five bellies for one brunch.
Start with your oil. Heat it up in the bottom of a medium-sized pot. Add your chorizo first if you are using it, then your onion as the chorizo fries. Or skip the chorizo and go straight for the onion. As it sizzles, add a bit of salt and pepper, and some cinnamon. (Don’t worry, the final product won’t taste like rice pudding; the cinnamon adds a really luscious dimension to the base layer of flavor.)
Allow the onions (and chorizo) to cook for a few minutes on their own. As their aroma releases, you can add a bit of cumin and coriander, and then your next vegetable (carrot, potato, or whatever else you have picked out at the farmer’s market). Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon.
Allow harder vegetables to cook about halfway.
When it feels right, add the bell pepper and stir again. Add some more salt, pepper, cumin and coriander too.
Next, add a bit more oil (what you started with has probably disappeared) and once it is good and hot, toss in the rice to fry. Frying the rice makes it cook better and adds flavor. When the rice turns a more opaque white, it is time for stage 3:
Add the rest: beans, tomato paste, tomatoes, stock, water. It can all go in at once. Garlic, hot pepper, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, and one bay leaf. Stir it all in and turn up the heat. I recommend tasting the liquid here to make sure it’s flavorful enough—if not, you can still adjust with more, salt, more garlic, more hot pepper, etc. Keep the heat up just long enough to bring the liquids to a boil, then turn it right back down to medium-low, cover the pot and let simmer
For the next fifteen minutes or so you can mostly leave the rice to its work—you’ll just want to stir once in a while and make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. (Unless of course you like the slightly burnt rice stuck to the bottom of the pot, in which case you’re not alone and you don’t have to stir.)
After that, you’ll want to watch the pot more carefully. Taste the rice and see how close it is to being cooked. If it seems like there is too much liquid, you can take out a spoonful or two. Too little? Add hot water, just a dash at a time. This is a matter of practice, and the more you make dirty rice, the more easily you will sense the right amount of liquid. It is a forgiving dish, however, and if you go under or over it will still taste absolutely delicious.
If you want eggs, greens, or anything else to go with your rice, you should get those together now. Yell to everyone that food is ready (actually it will be ready in five minutes). Taste again. The rice should be just about perfect, the eggs or other accoutrements ready to go.
Mimosas on the table and everyone lured to their seats by the tantalizing smell of dirty rice? Good.
Serve and enjoy.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Toby Israel
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Bordecia34 at Flickr