Number 10: Boxing Room's Dirty Rice

SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition

Boxing Room's chef, Justin Simoneaux, brings a California sensibility to traditional Cajun dishes — fried oyster salad with arugula and fennel, gulf flounder with tasso and green garlic — but for his dirty rice, he adheres strictly to his mother's recipe. 

Simoneaux grinds up pork, chicken gizzards, and livers, then cooks them down for so long the meat sticks to the pan before adding in onion, green pepper, and celery to saute, which is pretty much the opposite of classic French technique. “You've got to break all the rules when you cook Cajun food,” he says. When the aromatics have sweated out their juices, in go the rice, herbs, spices, and stock. Then it cooks on the stove until the grains are fluffy, brown, and saturated with flavor.

There are dozens of versions of dirty rice around the Bay Area, at dozens of middling New Orleans restaurants, and none of them are as good as Simoneaux's. His dirty rice resembles an American biryani, a conflagration of seasonings — a mélée between the caramelized meats and the thyme and garlic, the celery kicking up from the floor, green pepper and chile powder shouldering in to the brawl from the sides. In Indian and Pakistan, biryani is a feast-day dish; at Boxing Room, it's a $6 side.

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