Matt and I have been on many, many dates in our thirteen years together (thirteen years, I still can’t believe it!!), but one that particularly stands out to me happened several years ago on Valentine’s Day. He took me to Bar Americain, one of Bobby Flay’s high end restaurants, and I guess because it was Valentine’s Day, I was anticipating a lowly-lit, slightly secluded, quiet and romantic experience.
Yeah, not so much! The restaurant’s seating is very New York (read: close together), and the place was absolutely packed that night. We were led to a two-seater table, sitting facing one another, with barely enough room for a small purse between myself and the next two-seater table. All was not lost though. What made the entire night incredibly entertaining, albeit not terribly romantic, is that the couple seated next to us was this elderly man and woman who were having a very spirited argument about the finer details and overall merits of The Real Housewives of … somewhere, I forgot which city.
Matt and I gave up on any romantic conversation and instead had fun listening to this couple go at each other’s throats about such a banal topic. Oh, and the food was good too!
What I’m sharing today is what Matt ordered that night, or more accurately, a streamlined version of it, seeing as my home kitchen is not a Bobby Flay restaurant. I’m happy to report that I still got the point across though. This is a play on the New Orleans dish dirty rice, which is typically made with white rice, but Flay twists it up with a combination of Arborio rice and wild rice. Quite delicious! In his restaurant he pairs this with seared duck breast, but I slimmed it down to some duck bacon lardons scattered over the rice, thus keeping the meal to less food overall, plus this let the dirty rice be the star of the plate. You can sub regular pork bacon or even turkey bacon if you can’t find duck bacon.
Even with a few changes, this really does taste restaurant quality, and happily reminded Matt of our date years ago. Which was the goal, so that was nice. I highly recommend for a lovely date night at home! Enjoy!
Source: adapted from Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain Cookbook by Bobby Flay
1 quart chicken stock
1 package (8-12 oz.) duck bacon, chopped into lardons
Olive oil, as needed
½ lb. chicken livers
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 stalk celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno chiles, diced, seeded if desired
1 yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup cooked wild rice
2 tbs chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tbs pure maple syrup
¼ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup bourbon
2-3 whole thyme sprigs
2 tbs cold butter, cut into cubes
Louisiana style hot sauce, for passing at the table
Pour the chicken stock into a small stockpot and keep warm over low heat. Set aside.
In a large, high-sided skillet, add the duck bacon lardons over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring until the fat has rendered and the lardons are crisped. Remove to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon.
Pat the chicken livers dry with a paper towel, then season them with salt and pepper to taste. Add olive oil to the skillet if needed (you may have enough fat from the bacon). Add the chicken livers over high heat and cook, turning once, until golden brown and cooked to medium, about 5 minutes. Remove to a cutting board, let cool until you can handle them, then coarsely chop. It’s okay if there’s still a little bit of pink on the insides. Set aside.
Turn the skillet to medium heat and add the butter. Add the celery, garlic, and jalapenos and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the roasted peppers and cook 1 minute. Now add the Arborio rice, stir and cook 1 minute.
Begin adding the warmed stock to the skillet, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed. Continue adding stock and stirring until the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes. You may not need all of the stock.
Now stir in the wild rice, chicken livers, parsley, thyme, and maple syrup. Let it heat through, about 2-3 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.
Meanwhile, pour the bourbon into a small saucepan or stockpot, add the whole thyme sprigs, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce by at least half, until it has thickened a bit to a sauce consistency. Add the cold butter, one piece at a time, until it melts. Shut off the heat and remove the thyme.
To serve, transfer the rice to a large serving bowl. Scatter the pecans and reserved duck bacon over top. Spoon into bowls and drizzle with bourbon sauce. Pass the hot sauce if desired.