This Lowcountry favorite is likely descended from West African jollof rice.  It is sometimes called Carolina rice, or simply red rice.

nonstick cooking spray

6 bacon slices

1 medium Vidalia onion or other sweet Spanish or yellow onion, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups long grain or Carolina gold rice

1 (14 ounce) can tomato puree

1-1/2 cups chicken stock or water, plus more as needed

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

½ teaspoon black pepper

a pinch ground cayenne

parsley leaves, for garnish

1.  Measure rice into a fine-mesh sieve and place sieve into a bowl of cold water to soak for 30 minutes.  Remove sieve from water and drain rice for 20 minutes.  (Soaking and drying the rice thoroughly are important to remove the starch from the kernels before cooking.  Otherwise, your rice may be gummy.)

2.   Heat oven to 350* and coat a 9 by 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

3.   In a large (12 inch) heavy skillet over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes per side.  Remove the bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving drippings.  Crumble the bacon and set aside.

4.   In the same skillet, add the chopped onion, celery, bell pepper and 1 teaspoon salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant, another 30 seconds.

5.   To the skillet add the rinsed rice.  Stir and toast the rice for 30 seconds.  Add the crumbled bacon, tomato puree, stock, hot sauce, Cajun seasoning, sugar, pepper and cayenne.

6.   Bring the rice and vegetables to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Taste and add salt, if needed.

7.   Carefully transfer ingredients to the greased baking dish.  Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake until rice is tender, about 40 to 50 minutes.  Check the rice after about 30 minutes to make sure all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.  (If it’s too dry or not cooked all the way through, add a few tablespoons of water or stock at a time, if necessary, and cook a little longer.)  Fluff with a fork before serving and garnish with parsley leaves.

NOTE:  Charleston red rice often contains sausage.  If you’d like to add sausage, just sear it with the vegetables in step 4.

adapted from Millie Peartree, the New York Times

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