I’ve always enjoyed decorating and entertaining, especially during the holidays. One of my favorite traditions is to incorporate various aspects of my family’s customs into the celebrations. Like many Americans, my lineage is a mix of cultures. In my case, it’s French, German, Scottish and Irish, though you probably guessed that already from my peaches and cream complexion and lively red hair. 😛
I grew up in Louisiana, where food is considered to be a proverbial art form and cultural expression. As the years passed by, I’ve lived and traveled through many parts of the U.S. and have been exposed to a variety of cultures and tastes, all of which have been fascinating to experience. But, the recipes from home, well, they just stick with you, deep inside with an emotional connection that says, home.
During the holidays especially, certain recipes remind me of my grandmother and the dishes she made lovingly for us each year. One of my favorite foods growing up in Louisiana is dirty rice. While not the most appetizing of names, the dish itself is delicious! Dirty rice is a combination of rice, chicken stock, garlic, onion, ground beef, bell pepper and a variety of other ingredients that vary by the chef, including using sausage in some recipes. I love to make this dish and then add my own twist to the recipe by stuffing the rice into green bell peppers, sprinkling mozzarella cheese at the bottom of the pepper and over the top and then baking the rice in the peppers until the cheese melts.
The green bell peppers are so festive for St. Patrick’s Day (don’t they look like shamrocks) as well as during Easter and Christmas. What I love most, is that this dish instantly takes my heart back home and I’m there with my grandmother watching her make all of her wonderful creations in the kitchen. The funny thing is, I don’t remember her ever making dirty rice herself, my grandfather and my father both took turns picking it up Guillot’s, along with some BBQ and po-boy sandwiches for Saturday night dinners. Whenever we had this meal, it was a night off for my grandmother in the kitchen, who by the way, made the best gumbo I’ve ever tasted.
That’s the thing about memories, even though this was a dish she never cooked herself, it reminds me of her and my childhood in Louisiana, maybe even more so because on dirty rice nights, she was able to relax and just be with the family instead of working so hard in the kitchen.
I’ve put my own spin on an old family favorite by adding mozzarella into the stuffed peppers, updating it a bit with my own touch.
How about you, what favorite family recipes do you make and how do you make them your own?