Italy Meets the South: Dirty Rice Risotto

A Mediterranean-influenced take on the Creole favorite

Photo: Brittany Connerly

Someone once told me that altering traditional foods was condescending and disrespectful. It was upsetting to hear, considering I built my career on doing just that: remixing classic recipes with a modern twist. After mulling over my approach, I felt even more committed to it. While I stay true to certain traditional recipes, innovation and reinterpretation can be a beautiful way to bridge the past and the present. This recipe is my way of connecting traditional Southern dirty rice with a creamy, indulgent risotto, a mash-up of two classics. Some may call it blasphemy, but I call it damn delish. —Jocelyn Delk Adams, in her new cookbook, Everyday Grand: Soulful Recipes for Celebrating Life’s Big & Small Moments.

Read our interview with Adams, the brains behind the recipe blog Grandbaby Cakes, on inner joy, celebrating the mundane, and good food.

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  • Dirty Rice Risotto (Yield: Six servings)

    • 1⅓ cups Arborio rice

    • 2 cups chicken stock

    • 2 bay leaves

    • 1 lb. chicken gizzards, cleaned

    • 8 oz. chicken livers, trimmed

    • 2½ tsp. no-salt Cajun seasoning

    • 1 tsp. garlic powder

    • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves

    • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

    • 4 tbsp. duck fat or extra virgin olive oil, divided

    • 1 lb. ground beef (preferably 80/20)

    • 1½ tsp. kosher salt

    • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

    • 1 small onion, diced

    • ½ green bell pepper, seeded and diced

    • ½ red bell pepper, seeded and diced

    • ½ cup diced celery

    • 5 garlic cloves, minced or finely grated

    • ⅓ cup heavy cream

    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter

    • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

    • 2 tsp. hot sauce

    • 1 bunch scallions, sliced, plus more for garnish

    • Fresh parsley, for garnish


  1. In a large pot, combine the rice, stock, and bay leaves and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cook until the rice is somewhat tender and the liquid has mostly evaporated, 10–15 minutes. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork, and set aside. Keep the rice covered while you cook the rest of the dish.

  2. In a medium pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the gizzards and cook until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or spider to transfer the gizzards to a food processor (keep the water in the pot at a boil) and process until it resembles ground meat, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and slide to the side.

  3. Add the livers to the pot of boiling water and cook until cooked through, about 5 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer the livers to the food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Reserve the cooking liquid.

  4. In a small bowl, whisk up the Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, thyme, and cayenne. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the duck fat over medium-high heat, then heat until shimmering. Add the ground beef, season with the salt, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the seasoning mixture, and cook, stirring and breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until the meat is browned and cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Stir in the gizzards and livers and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes, then transfer the meat to a large bowl.

  5. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of duck fat to the skillet, followed by the onion, green and red bell peppers, and celery. Cook, stirring, until softened, 6–8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.

  6. Add the beef mixture, the cooked veggies, and the remaining seasoning blend to the rice and stir until well combined. Stir in the cream, 1 cup of the reserved gizzard-liver cooking liquid, the butter, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and scallions and cook over low to medium-low heat, stirring, until the rice is voluptuous and has absorbed all the liquid. Remove from the heat, divide among six bowls, and serve it up.

Reprinted from Everyday Grand, copyright © 2023 by Jocelyn Delk Adams. Photographs copyright © 2023 by Brittany Conerly. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.