This traditional Gullah dish is one of the special recipes that led chef and author Scotty Scott to rediscover his family history while researching his cookbook, Fix Me A Plate. Scott’s mother was raised in Savannah, Georgia, and the foods she grew up eating were fixtures on the family table. The chef adapted her version, swapping in smoked sausage for bacon, and enriching the cooking liquid with Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and tomato paste.
As part of the low country, the coastal region of Georgia and South Carolina between the two Jacksonvilles (not to be confused with the Low Country—the counties of Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper in South Carolina), several traditional dishes from Savannah involve rice, which at one time was the dominant crop of the region. As is the case with many agricultural products associated with Soul food, enslaved Africans brought with them the knowledge of not only how to grow the ingredient, but also how to cook with it.
Scott’s mother cooked her red rice in a Pyrex glass pot. The recipe, always a family favorite, still reminds Scott of his mother placing that big dish on the table and removing the glass top to reveal a steaming hot, delicious pot of fluffy red rice.
Gullah Red Rice
Chef Scotty Scott’s supper for a crowd is laced with tomatoes, aromatics, and smoked sausage.
Yield: serves 6
1 hour, 20 minutes
- Non-stick baking spray
- 12 oz. smoked sausage, sliced into ½-in. rounds or 4 strips of bacon, coarsely chopped
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (1½ cups)
- 1 large green bell pepper, coarsely chopped (1½ cups)
- 4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped (1 Tbsp.)
- Two 14.5-oz. cans stewed tomatoes
- 2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cayenne pepper
- 1 lb. (2 cups) long-grain rice
- ½ cups thinly sliced scallion greens, for garnish
- Preheat the oven (with one of its racks positioned in the center) to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, then place the dish on a large rimmed baking sheet.
- Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well, then transfer the rice to a medium bowl and set aside. To a medium bowl, add the chicken stock and whisk in the tomato paste, set aside.To a large heavy pot set over medium heat, add the sausage and fry, stirring frequently, until browned on all sides and the fat has rendered, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate, leaving the fat behind. To the same pot, still medium heat, add the onion and bell pepper to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and the peppers have softened, 4–5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes, salt, sugar, Worcestershire, black pepper, cayenne, and the reserved sausage. Bring to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, and using a spoon to break up the tomatoes, until the sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and the chicken stock mixture, then turn the heat to medium-high to bring to a full boil. Lower the heat to to maintain a simmer, then cook, stirring occasionally until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat, then carefully ladle the rice mixture to the reserved baking dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil, then transfer the pan (still on the baking sheet) to the oven. Bake until the rice is tender, 30–35 minutes. Remove from the oven and uncover. Fluff with a fork, garnish with the sliced scallion greens, and serve warm.