What is Cajun seasoning?
It is a spice mix. Although other ingredients are sometimes added, the mainstays are paprika, cayenne, garlic, pepper and oregano. If you buy commercial Cajun seasoning, the dominant color is red. Don’t think though that the color is an indication of the level of heat. Yes, Cajun seasoning can be spicy depending on how much cayenne goes in it. But what really gives it its distinctive color is paprika which is ground capsicum.
We like to mix our own Cajun seasoning for better control of flavor. If you decide to make Cajun dirty rice with store-bought Cajun seasoning, that is quite okay. Just make sure you choose a trusted brand.
What is andouille?
Andouille (pronounced an-doo-wee) is a smoked sausage from France which found its way to the American South. Cajun andouille is a spicy coarsely ground double-smoked pork sausage.
How are Cajun seasoning and andouille used to cook dirty rice?
The andouille provides the first layer of flavor. The sausages are cut up, browned and left to render fat. Then, the second layer of flavor comes in. The holy trinity of Cajun cooking — onion, carrot and celery in equal amounts — join the sausage in the pan with salt and pepper, and sauteed in the rendered fat.
More vegetables are added before chopped cooked chicken livers are thrown in. Cajun seasoning, the third layer of flavor, is added and everything is cooked in the rendered sausage fat (and a bit of butter in case all the rendered fat gets soaked up by the chicken liver) until the liver pieces darken with caramelization. Remember, a bit of Maillard reaction never hurts. That’s the fourth layer of flavor.
To that merry mix of flavors and colors, rice is tossed in until it soaks up the seasonings and darkens as bits of crumbled chicken liver cling to the grains.
Cajun dirty rice
Cajun spice mix
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons cayenne powder - chili powder may be substituted
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
- 3 teaspoons sea salt - or 1 ½ teaspoons refined salt
To cook the dirty rice
- 250 grams andouille
- ⅓ cup celery - roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup carrot - roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup onion - roughly chopped
- salt - to taste
- pepper - to taste
- ⅓ cup bell peppers - roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup sweet peas
- 250 grams chicken livers - cooked, seasoned and chopped
- 1 ½ teaspoons Cajun seasoning
- 2 tablespoons butter - optional
- 2 to 3 cups cooked white rice
- Stir together all the ingredients for Cajun seasoning. Transfer into a tightly covered jar and set aside.
- Cut the andouille into one-inch slices.
- Throw the sausage slices in a hot frying pan and cook over medium-high heat until cooked through and browned, and a generous amount of fat has been rendered.
- Add the chopped celery, carrot and onion. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion bits start to turn translucent.
- Add the chopped bell pepper and sweet peas. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two.
- The chopped chicken livers go in next. Throw them in, sprinkle in Cajun seasoning and stir. The chopped liver will soak up the oil; if the mixture appears too dry, you have the option of adding more oil. I prefer butter.
- Add the rice. Cook, stirring, until the rice is heated through and the coloring looks even.
- Taste, add more salt and pepper, if needed.
- Serve the Cajun dirty rice immediately.