Bored with the same old sides at the Thanksgiving table? Try adding a bit of Cajun spice to your meal with this Timber2Table version of the classic Creole dish. Similar to dirty rice but without its traditional livers and gizzards, rice dressing is one of those family recipes that get handed down from generation to generation. Go to a church potluck dinner in Louisiana, and you are likely to find multiple versions. They’ll all be slightly different, but they will all be delicious.
This version features seasoned ground venison along with Louisiana crawfish tails. While this time of year isn’t traditional crawfish season, frozen tails are readily available. Just like shrimp, look for Louisiana or other domestically caught crawfish. Avoid imported products, where quality can sometimes be suspect. Use a quality long-grained rice. I’m partial to Carolina Gold for its mild, slightly nutty flavor and perfect starch content.
1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain rice
1 pound ground venison
1 pound of crawfish tails, thawed
1 can (10.5 ounce) cream of mushroom soup
1 can (10.5 ounce) French onion soup
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small sweet yellow onion, diced
4 tablespoons of butter, melted
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 dashes hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 can (14-ounce) chicken broth
Start by heating 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and pepper.
Sauté until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the ground venison. Season with salt, sage and black pepper. Continue cooking another 5 to 8 minutes until the venison has browned and just cooked through.
Pour the meat, onion and pepper mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients.
Stir well to blend. The mixture will be wet at this point, but the rice will absorb the moisture.
Turn out into a buttered 9x13 baking dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes to crisp the top.
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