After much deliberation I decided to go with a meal that I made a few different times this year. It has changed quite a bit since the first time I made it.
1lb. of ground beef or pork
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 can of fire roasted tomatoes, diced
1 can of black beans
1 small can of jalapenos (for less heat, use a small can of green chiles), diced
1 box (12-16 oz) of yellow rice
12 oz chicken stock
freshly ground black pepper
freshly ground cumin
freshly ground sea salt, to taste
To call this a comfort meal is an understatement. I's sure there is another version of Dirty Rice, but this is a version I made up on my own one day when I had very little money and a very empty stomach. I started grabbing things off the shelves and combined them in my head until it was what I thought would be best. After the first time I made it I adjusted the spices, adjusted the ingredients and turned it into a one pot meal. This recipe usually serves about 6 or 8 portions, depending on the size of your appetite.
My favorite time in 2011 that I made this was when my brother did me a favor. I had a couple pieces of furniture that I needed moved from my apartment to my parents' garage sale, and he offered to help. I told him I couldn't pay him, but I would make it worth his while. By the look on his face, he was not disappointed. He was living in his first apartment so I showed him how to make it so that he would have a great go-to dish when he needed. Of course I left him the leftovers so that he could continue to enjoy it for days to come.
The first thing I do is put the ground meat in a four inch deep pan and brown it up with cracked pepper, a little bit of salt (to pull the moisture out) and ground cumin. Once the meat is almost browned all the way, I toss in the diced orange bell pepper. Once the pepper has softened up a bit, I throw in the can of black beans (with liquid). I stir the meat, peppers and beans around for a bit, then I incorporate the can of tomatoes and the can of peppers with their liquid. I let this simmer for a while to get all the flavors to marry together.
I usually use two small boxes of rice, and the liquids from the peppers, tomatoes and beans is usually equivalent to one box of rice, so I put in as much chicken stock as one box calls for. Using chicken stock will add much more flavor than just using water. I bring the meat, beans, tomatoes, peppers and stock to a boil and then add in the rice. I cook the mixture just as the rice indicates. I usually check on it a couple of times, stirring the mixture and checking to see if I need to add more stock.
Once all of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is to your liking, it's done! Serve it on a plate or in a bowl and top with shredded cheddar.