In honor of Fred Opie
When I think about West African culture and its link to Black Americans, this is the dish that springs to mind. Broken rice, a result of the laborious milling process, was once rejected as unworthy of trade. But over time, communities around the world that got “stuck” with broken rice learned to value it and even prefer it–as in Senegal, for example. South Carolina’s Low Country was famous for its rice crop, made possible by the forced migration and enslavement of rice farmers from modern- day Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Gambia, among other areas. These rice experts weren’t credited as such, but they were sought after for their skill and were responsible for South Carolina’s booming economy. The ingenuity of Black cooks helped turn broken rice or “middlins” into a tasty staple of Southern cooking. It’s now in high demand among chefs today, resulting in some mills purposefully breaking the rice hull to ensure they have available stock to sell.
Broken Rice Peanut Seafood Stew
- 1/2 cup Caroline Gold rice grits (or basmati rice)
- 1 cup 1/4-inch cubes peeled sweet potato
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium red onions, finely chopped
- 2 Fresno chiles, stemmed and finely chopped
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fermented shrimp paste
- 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups clam juice
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1/2 cup crabmeat
- 8 whole cherrystone clams
- 8 shrimp (26 to 30 per pound), peeled and deveined
- 1 pound salmon collars or other leftover fish, cubes
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- Juice of 3 limes
- 2 cups coarsely chopped mustard greens
- 1/4 cup chopped toasted peanuts, for serving
- Rinse the rice grits and sweet potato in a fine mesh strainer under cold water until the water run clears, 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onions, chiles, ginger, and garlic and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the rice grits, potatoes, and shrimp paste and cook for 3 minutes, stirring continually. Add the coconut milk and tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the clam juice and chicken stock and simmer another 10 minutes.
- Add the peanut butter, crab, clams, shrimp, and salmon and stir to combine. Simmer an additional 3 minutes, or until the seafood is just cooked through. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, and mustard greens and stir to combine just until the mustard greens have slightly wilted. Serve garnished with toasted peanuts.