Gullah Crab Fried Rice
Gullah cooking, which originated in the swampy lowlands and barrier islands of North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, is nearly synonymous with rice and seafood. This cuisine originated in the slave quarters of that region, so while there were crops like sweet potatoes and okra that are also part of Gullah cooking, these regions were part of the “Rice Belt” that grew tremendous amounts of long grain rice like Carolina Gold. Rice figured into nearly every Gullah meal, and even today, there are Gullah descendants who don’t think they’ve eaten a complete meal without some rice on the table.
Where Gullah excels is in making the most of the ingredients available at the time. Their coastal base means seafood is also a predominant figure in Gullah cooking, and Gullah Seasoning blend is designed to highlight, not dominate, these main ingredients. It’s mild and herbaceous, with a touch of black pepper and the sweet fragrance of bell pepper and allspice. We wanted to enjoy this blend with a dish composed of the ingredients that make Gullah special, so what better way to enjoy this cuisine than in a rice-based stir fry spiked with sweet crab meat? One pot meals are a Gullah standard! This family-friendly dish is quick and easy to make; it’s adaptable to a wide range of tastes, is stick-to-your-ribs satisfying, and is ready in under an hour.
To keep cooking times to under an hour, make sure you choose a basic long-grain rice. Brown or wild rice takes roughly twice as long as standard long-grain rice to cook—if not longer—so use long-grain rice in the interests of time economy. Start cooking the vegetables and sausage while the rice is cooking; the rice should be done, but since it cooks together with all the other ingredients at the end for 10 minutes you have a little bit of wiggle room with your timing. Season your rice with some Gullah Seasoning and Kosher Salt as it simmers to make sure the flavor goes through the entire dish, and once the rice is in the water and fully underway, you can get started on the rest of the meal.
Rendering the fat out of some slices of bacon which you then use to cook in is a terrific way to add tons of flavor to a meal. In this recipe we use onions, celery, and bell pepper, which is a classic Cajun flavor base known as the “Holy Trinity”. You’ll find the Holy Trinity in a wide range of dishes, from stews and gumbos to fricassees and down-home red beans and rice. Gullah cooks readily admit to taking elements of other local cuisines and applying them in their own way, so it’s of no concern that something Cajun can be found in Gullah dishes. This is also apparent in the andouille sausage, a pre-cooked, smoked sausage that’s often made with Cajun seasonings. Since it’s pre-cooked you’re not really cooking it as much as you are crisping up the edges of the sausage and laying its flavor down into the pan. If you can’t find andouille we’d recommend substituting something like kielbasa or a mild chorizo; both of these sausages are pre-cooked and have a similar texture to andouille, though make sure your chorizo is mild, since it can run to the spicy side and you don’t want it to compete with the sweet and gentle Gullah seasoning.
Stir in half the crab meat with the rice and let this dish saute together for 10 minutes. This is where the dish can be infinitely adaptable, because at this point you can add in boiled shrimp, or diced cooked chicken, or leftover pork chops with the meat shredded off the bone. Personalize this however you and your family would like! Let everything simmer together, then pull it off the heat and top the dish with the rest of the crab meat and perhaps some green onion or parsley. Enjoy it with a simple green salad on the side for a Southern-style, Cajun-style meal that’s done the Gullah way.
1. Cook the rice in the water with 2 Tablespoons of Gullah Seasoning and the Kosher Salt. As it’s cooking, start prepping and cooking the vegetables and sausage.
2. Put vegetable oil in a medium-sized cast iron pan. Brown the bacon in vegetable oil; remove bacon when it’s fully cooked and set to the side.
3. Using the same pan and oil, saute onion, celery, and bell pepper until soft, but not brown.
4. Add the remaining Gullah Seasoning and diced andouille sausage and cook until the andouille starts to brown.
5. Stir in the cooked rice and half the crabmeat and cook for roughly 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring the rice occasionally. Remove from heat and top with remaining crab meat.