This Is the Only Holiday Side Dish We Want to Eat All Year Long

Dirty rice is the perfect one-pot wonder for Christmas and weeknights.

By: Frances Kim

Food Network Kitchen's Dirty Rice.

Photo by: Matt

Matt

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When it comes to the holidays, there’s one topic we never tire of discussing here at Food Network Kitchen: food traditions. Whether they’re recipes that have been in the family for generations or recently added favorites, they never fail to inspire. FNK culinary producer Nikki Scott’s Dirty Rice is no exception. A classic side for a Cajun Christmas, the dish is also popular year-round in the South. Not only is it a mainstay on Nikki’s holiday table, but it was also one of her go-to meals when she was growing up and first learning how to cook. “Dirty rice is what I would make when I wanted to throw everything in one pot and have something delicious to eat after school,” she says.

The dish gets its name from the finely chopped meat that gives the rice its signature “dirty” look. Nikki’s version relies on three different proteins: ground beef, hot sage pork sausage and the traditional chicken liver. “The liver takes dirty rice to another level,” she says. “I promise you it’s not going to be overpowering.” If you’re not a liver lover, you can always substitute chicken thighs or add more sausage or ground beef. Once the proteins are cooked (don’t rush this process, as the browning at the bottom of the pan is going to enhance the flavor of your rice), it’s time to get the Louisiana holy trinity going: onions, bell peppers and celery. While Nikki emphasizes that your dicing doesn’t have to be perfect, she does recommend making sure all your vegetables are the same size so they cook evenly.

Nikki also builds flavor by adding aromatics (garlic, thyme and bay leaves) and spices (oregano, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper), then stirs in long-grain white rice, beef broth and Worcestershire sauce along with the cooked meat. After a quick hands-off turn on the stove, this hearty side dish is ready to serve. “You get sausage and beef, you get that little bit of liver bite, you get a little heat in the back, you get fluffy rice — it’s delicious,” says Nikki. The best part? It’s one of those versatile dishes that’s just as welcome (and easy to pull off!) during the holidays as it is on a weeknight.

Looking for more holiday dishes to add to your repertoire? Be sure to check out Dana Beninati’s 7-Fishes Fra Diavolo, Gabriela Rodiles’s Instant Pot Cuban Mojo Pork and Larisa Alvarez’s Pan de Jamon on the Food Network Kitchen app.

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