Cookbook Collector: From a Southern Oven + Rice and Shrimp Pie with Bacon

March 4, 2013

Award winning cookbook author Jean Anderson is an expert on Southern cooking.  She has a love affair with low country cuisine and chronicles it's history in her newest book, From a Souther Oven: The Savories, The Sweets.  The collection of 150 recipes includes appetizers and snacks, main dishes, sides, dreads, and of course, desserts.  The recipes highlight regional ingredients like Vidalia onions, butter beans, sweet potatoes, and peaches, that are transformed into mouthwatering dishes.   Anderson lures the reader to the South with the promise of chicken jambalaya casserole, Atlanta brisket, country ham and cauliflower casserole, scuppernong pie, and hummingbird cake. Sink your teeth into delectable baked pecan stuffed pork chops or indulge with key lime cheesecake.   Additionally, each recipe includes tips and tricks to ensure the cook's success in the kitchen.  From the Southern Oven is a testament to the food traditions of this celebrate cuisine.

Georgetown Rice and Shrimp Pie with Bacon

Often called “Little Charleston,” Georgetownlies some 60 miles north of its “big sister” along the Ocean Highway(US 17) -- about halfway to Myrtle Beach. Though it was founded after Charleston(1670) and Beaufort (1711) farther south near Savannah, some historians believe that Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón sailed into WinyahBaywith African slaves as early as 1526 and established a Spanish colony on Waccamaw Neck near present-day Georgetown. But what would have been Europe’s first North American settlement succumbed to fever and slave rebellion. The surviving Spaniards sailed away abandoning their slaves, who had the good sense to befriend local Indians. Centuries later, Georgetown’s aristocracy grew rich on rice; indeed by 1840 they were producing more than half of America’s supply of “Carolinagold.” To see a South long “gone with the wind,” you’ve only to visit Georgetown’s majestic rice plantations during the annual spring tour - Arundel, Hampton, Hopsewee, and Mansfield (now a posh B & B). You can also tour the Lowcountry’s abandoned rice “fields” by boat, cruising dark waters beneath Spanish-moss-hung live oaks. This ecological gumbo was not only ideal for growing rice but also teemed- and still does-- with some of the sweetest shrimp on earth. So is it any wonder that early Georgetown cooks liked to combine the local rice and shrimp? Few shrimp and rice dishes are easier and better- than this old favorite. But make a note, it’s “crustless” and more casserole than pie. Note:I’ve taken a few modern shortcuts here- like using canned tomatoes instead of homegrown and using frozen shelled and deveined raw shrimp when fresh-caught are unavailable. I do insist, however, on Atlantic or Gulf Coast shrimp.

Makes 4 Servings

3 tablespoons bacon drippings or vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
11/2 pounds shelled and deveined raw medium-size shrimp (see Note above)
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes, with their liquid plus enough water to total 2 cups
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground hot red pepper (cayenne), depending on how hot you like things
3/4 cup long-grain rice, cooked according to package directions until fluffy-dry
4 slices lean richly smoky bacon

1.  Preheat oven to 400°F. Spritz 2-quart shallow casserole with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

2.  Melt bacon drippings in large heavy skillet over moderately high heat, add onion, and sauté, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes until nicely browned.

3.  Add shrimp and stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes just until pink. Add tomatoes, paprika, Worcestershire, salt, and cayenne, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and fold in rice.

4.  Scoop all into casserole and spread to edge. Lay bacon slices on top, not touching one another.

5.  Slide onto middle oven shelf and bake uncovered 30 to 35 minutes until bacon crisps and browns.

6.  Serve at once with a green salad or vegetable of your choice. I personally favor pole beans, broccoli, or asparagus.

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