When the chef of a two-star Michelin restaurant concocts a dish that is entirely vegetarian and made in one pot, you should cross off whatever main course is currently on your dinner menu and make that dish instead.
That’s what happened here. I was scrolling through Food and Wine’s website and came across this humble, strange-looking recipe for dirty rice – a New Orleans staple – with absolutely no shellfish, with absolutely no fussing. Adam said it was the best vegetarian meal he’d eaten in a long time. I wanted it to be the best vegetarian meal I’d eaten in a long time. So I scrapped my menu of sun-shaped spinach pie (though, how cool does that pie look?!) and harissa hummus, in favor of David Kinch’s eggplant dirty rice. Mistake? Not even a little.
It’s hard to believe this dish is completely vegan. The flavor comes from the NOLA trinity – onions, celery, and green pepper – and plenty of umami from sou sauce and tomato paste. And guys, seriously, the whole thing happens in one big ol’ pot. Don’t you have to cook the eggplant separately, as one of our guests asked? Why no, you don’t. You just pile it all in there. And somewhere between the vegetables sweating and browning and the rice cooking, the eggplant turns into something soft and silky and amazing, all with absolutely no effort. I don’t know what else to tell you…..besides you must make this.
Menu planning: I’ve been mulling over adding a section to the website where I document the menus from dinner parties and other times we’ve hosted. For me, the hardest part of getting a meal together is figuring out the menu. I struggle to figure out what dishes go together, and I often end up feeling like I’ve made either one too many or one too few dishes. If you’d like to see more menus up here, give a shout in the comments. Meanwhile, let’s try it on for size. Here’s what I served for Saturday lunch with the dirty rice:
- Caramelized onion focaccia
(recipe forthcoming. Awesome.)
- Salad (brought by our friend Ron: a mixture of lettuce, beet and sunflower sprouts, carrots, and peppers. Basic vinaigrette. Delish.)
- Pepper-crusted seared tuna with soy-avocado sauce based on the one in this recipe
- Brussels sprout hash with poppy seeds and lemon
- Lemon custard cups with whipped cream and graham cracker crumbs (recipe forthcoming)
I thought the meal worked well, and it’s nice to have the template recorded for the next time I’m totally lacking inspiration and have to cook.
Without further ado, your new favorite weeknight dinner:
Eggplant Dirty Rice
Adapted from David Kinch’s recipe in Food and Wine
First, know that this recipe makes a ton. We had a huge pot, enough to serve 6 people as a side dish with tons left for weekday lunch. You won’t hear any complaints from me about the quantity, but if you’re having 8 people, unless it’s a main course with little else on the side, you probably don’t need to double the recipe. Second, you really do need the 1/4 cup of oil. Can you use less? Yes. Will it be as creamy and silky as it would with the full amount? Probably not. Plus, think of it this way – the recipe serves 8-10, which means there’s 1/2 a tablespoon or less in each serving. However, if you’d rather use olive oil, I won’t tell David Kinch on you. Third, depending on how salty your broth and soy sauce are, you may want to reduce the quantities of salt I recommend. Consider starting with a 1/4 teaspoon at each interval and adding more later. Finally, do make sure you bring the rice to a boil before sticking it in the oven. If you don’t, the rice on the bottom of the pot will cook perfectly but the top layer will be pretty raw after 17 minutes in the oven. Not that I would know…okay, I made the mistake so you don’t have to. xo -r
1/4 cup canola oil
3 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 medium green bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 cups medium-grain white rice
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup chopped parsley, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot (I used a Dutch oven), heat oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add celery, bell peppers, and onion, and season with about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (less if using table salt). Cover pot and cook 5 minutes, until onions have softened. Uncover and cook 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until vegetables have browned slightly.
Add eggplant, thyme, and all three peppers, along with 1/2 teaspoon more of kosher salt. Cook on medium heat for 6-8 minutes, until eggplant has softened considerably but maintains its shape. Add tomato paste and garlic, stir to combine, and cook for 1 minute. Then add soy sauce, rice, and broth, and bring to a boil over high heat.
Cover pot, transfer to the oven, and bake for 17 minutes, until the rice is just tender. Remove from the oven and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice and serve with hot sauce and chopped parsley.