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Dirty Rice & Butter Cake From ‘The Feathered Bone’

Author Julie Cantrell offers up her own family recipes as accompaniments to her new novel. 

As a token of appreciation to those “who dare to dive into the worlds I build from this wild and tangled mind of mine,” The Feathered Bone author Julie Cantrell offers a little lagniappe in the form of her family’s own Louisiana recipe collection. These dishes have been pulled straight from the pages of The Feathered Bone, one of our 11 book picks for spring.

Cantrell grew up and set her book in Livingston Parish, a rural section of Louisiana that is fondly referred to by locals as “LP.” This Florida Parish rests between Baton Rouge to the west, New Orleans to the south, and Hammond to the east, with easy access to Lake Maurepas as well as several rivers and the Gulf of Mexico. Living in this area put her at the epicenter of various cultural influences; the French Creole dishes from New Orleans merged with the Cajun recipes of Acadiana.

The smells of sautéed bell peppers, onions, and celery fill my home. It’s a combination folks here call the Holy Trinity. When mixed with just the right pop of seasonings, it really can bring a soul straight to heaven.” – The Feathered Bone

A Cajun and Creole dish made from white rice that traditionally turned a “dirty” color while being cooked with small pieces of chicken liver or giblets, Dirty Rice is still common in South Louisiana, however, many families no longer add liver or giblets to the recipe. Other families cook it with eggplant, and a lot of folks call it rice dressing. In The Feathered Bone, main character Amanda Salassi makes the dish in preparation for Hurricane Katrina approaching.

featheredboneDirty Rice 
1/2 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground chuck
1 cup yellow onions, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1/4 cup dark roux (if you don’t want to make your own roux, you can purchase pre-made jarred roux)
1/2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups beef stock
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme)
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 cup green onion, chopped
7 cups cooked rice, packed

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add pork and beef and cook until meat is browned. Add onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add dark roux and cook for additional 5 minutes. Add Cajun seasoning, salt, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, thyme, hot sauce and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add remaining onion, celery and bell pepper. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Stir in green onions and parsley. Stir in cooked rice until completely incorporated.

 

For her daughter’s 13th birthday, Amanda Salassi makes her favorite dessert, a gooey recipe from her own childhood birthdays, and tops it with candles. She serves it with vanilla Blue Bell ice cream, and after eating cake, the family sits down to watch home movies. It’s one of their last happy memories before things really fall apart. Cantrell says her mother still makes this cake for her and because it’s been served at so many milestones “every bite brings a surge of memories and emotions. I love how a single taste of a particular food can transport us through time and make us feel loved.”

Butter Cake with Chocolate Marshmallow Icing
1 box Butter Golden yellow cake mix
1 small jar marshmallow cream
1 box powdered sugar
4 Tbsp. powdered cocoa
6-8 Tbsp. evaporated milk
4 Tbsp. melted butter

Prepare cake according to directions. (Yes, you can make these from scratch, but why not keep things simple?) Bake in 13X9 cake pan as directed. While still warm, spread an even layer of marshmallow cream on top. Then, let cool completely. Once cooled, combine powdered sugar, powdered cocoa, evaporated milk and melted butter until smooth and creamy. Then, frost the cake with a smooth layer of the chocolate icing.

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons by Kevin Grocki

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