I also have had bad experiences with adding raw rice, LOL, so I precooked the 1/2 cup rice with 1 cup water, and blanched the cabbage first. I also used about a TBSP of Tony's, and added a little more to taste, rather than using the spice mix. A little more garlic, and sharp cheddar. Of course, I had to add a couple of ribs of celery (you have to have the "trinity" ). I had actually just had an email recipe of a similar dish by a restaurant chef, so I followed his directions and mixed everything all together rather than layering. His recipe included some cream, but I just used a splash of milk instead. It turned out wonderfully, but I think it might be even better if I not only added the cheese in the mix, but topped it with cheese, as well. Served with some garlic bread--can't wait for the leftovers! I can see using lower fat ingredients--ground chicken or turkey, or low fat cheese (or even omitting it) You could even add crawfish tails or andouille. There is so much potential to vary this! Oh--I baked it @ 365, covered with foil, for the first 30 minutes. I then baked it uncovered, for another 15 or so. There looked like a lot of liquid in the dish, but after letting it sit for about 15 minutes, it was all absorbed.
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I also have had bad experiences with adding raw rice, LOL, so I precooked the 1/2 cup rice...