While you would be hard-pressed to find authentic Lowcountry cooking in any Charleston dining establishment, throughout the South in cafeterias and small, family-owned restaurants there is the lingering legacy of red rice. Most Lowcountry cooks prefer their red rice very plain, the best made with vine-ripened, juicy red tomatoes, rice, and a few fresh herbs from the garden. Other recipes including onion and bell pepper are what most of the country calls “Spanish” rice. Actually red rice is just a tomato pilau. An unattributed recipe in the Carolina Rice Cook Book of 1901 calls for stirring the rice, but I prefer recipes in which the rice is never touched with a spoon while it is steaming; fluffed, instead, with a fork when ready to serve, each grain will, per tradition, stand separately.

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Ingredients

  • ½ pound bacon
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 2 cups vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 14½ -ounce can peeled tomatoes, chopped, with their juice, or 1 14½ -ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 quart chicken stock

Method

Cut the bacon into small pieces and fry until crisp in a large skillet or saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid. Remove the bacon and reserve for garnish. Pour off some of the bacon grease, leaving about ¼ cup of it in the pan. Add the rice and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.

It will begin to turn white after a few minutes; do not let it scorch or brown. Add the tomatoes and continue to sauté until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the salt and stock (omit the salt if you’re using canned stock). Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving. Fluff the rice with a fork and garnish with the reserved bacon.

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