Savannah Red Rice - Just Like Grandmother Used to Make
Red Rice - Savannah style
My husband's Grandmother was a genuine Steel Magnolia. Born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, cooking was as vital a part of a young woman's upbringing as Sunday church and Cotillion.
When she went on to her reward at the ripe old age of 84, the one possession of Grandmother's that we (me and four sister-in-laws) fought over was not her diamonds or her antique furniture. It was her favorite frying pan. It didn't even have a handle any more. But it was so seasoned to perfection, you could cook rocks in it, and if you placed them on your head your tongue would beat your brains out to get to them.
To this day, 20-some years after her passing, I still dream about her fried chicken: crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. And I would give anything to go back in time and take back all the steamed cabbage and fried okra I politely passed around the supper table without taking any, because I was raised by mid-westerners and didn't know what I was missing. I know now. How I kick myself for the foolishness of youth.
When I did grow up a little and realized not just anybody could cook like Grandmother, I asked her for some of her recipes. "Oh, honey, just come watch me. I don't write anything down." So I did - many times. But if she started the process by saying "Now, honey, there is nothing to it" I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that mine would never, ever taste like hers. She moved around a kitchen like a ballerina on stage. She'd throw in a pinch of this and a dollop of that. But what it really came down to was timing. No matter how many times I watched her fry chicken, I would never master her sense of in just what order to do what, at what temperature, and for how long. With her, it was innate. She possessed that mysterious mastery that only comes from doing the same thing, over and over again, across a period of 70-some years - and always with a dollop of love.
When I get to Heaven, I'll look for the mansion with African violets on the window sill and know that's where I'll find the great fried chicken, steamed cabbage, fried okra, and Savannah red rice, which is the recipe I'm sharing today. It's the only one of Grandmother's masterpieces I've ever even come close to getting just right.
Jones Street - site of Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House
- 6 - 8 strips bacon
- 1 large onion (preferably Vidalia)
- 1 large can diced tomatoes
- 1 small can tomato sauce
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups rice, long cooking
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon parsley
- to taste Tobasco
- 1 teaspoon sugar, Important to reduce acidity of tomatoes
Port of Savannah
- Cut bacon and onion into small pieces. Fry until bacon is crispy and onion is opaque - not brown.
- Add canned tomatoes and tomato sauce and all seasonings. Stir well.
- Add water and bring to boil.
- Add rice, cover, simmer 20 minutes on low. It is OK for the bottom rice to get a little brown, (like the picture at the top of this hub) but be careful not to let it stick or burn. Lift with a spatula to check near the end of the cook time being careful not to break the rice too much.
A streetview in Savannah
Adjust seasonings to your taste
Don't expect to get this dish's seasonings exactly to your taste on your first try. Adjust them on each try. You'll notice I didn't even list salt and pepper. I would add some during the preparation, but I would not presume to list the exact measurement. It is easier to add on the table than it is to remove too much on the stove. And by all means, cook until the rice is done, no matter what cook time I list.
One last instruction: This dish always tastes better when it is shared by a loving family or group of close friends. Don't forget to include that important ingredient!
As Grandmother would say, y'all enjoy!