Clean and delicious Dirty Rice

Apr. 23, 2013 @ 05:49 PM

“I hate driving to Gastonia to see my children. It’s too much time in that car by myself and gives me too much time to think,” Sandra McCray said.

I totally knew what she was talking about. Plus, both of us get really bored all alone. Just the rhythm of the tires humming on the road, round and round.

Fred and I were chatting with Sandra at her son’s restaurant, Dave’s Carry-out in Charleston, S.C. Fred had read about this spot in “Garden and Gun.” We couldn’t leave Charleston until we’d made a stop to check it out. He was ready to see if it lived up to its reputation.

It did.

“This is a lot cheaper than those fancy places downtown (Charleston). You got to pay for all that high-price surrounding,” Sandra said.

She was our cook that day. Her son, Terry, came in later.

Dave’ Carry-out is located at 42 Morris Street #C, an area under renovation. It’s small, with a few tables, and is really set up for carry-out as the name implies. The clientele I saw was a mix of construction and professional types. Plus us, the tourists.

For a modest fee of $17.59 we had fried flounder, fried shrimp (made on the spot), red rice, limas. two drinks and one slice of red velvet cake

I’m an avid rice lover and aficionado of all kinds from around the globe.

I tried to get Sandra’s secret to light, well-seasoned red rice. I didn’t get it. I do have my own listed below.

Our fried flounder and shrimp were cooked right in front of us. No heat lamps for cook Sandra.

I’m sure most have special ways they batter and cook their fried seafood. I have my own, passed done by Ella Maddox, who raised me. She came every morning and organized our house, my three brothers and me.

My Daddy and his friends bought a fishing lake and acreage north of Atlanta in Cherokee County. At the time the location was way, way out of the city. Now people commute from their suburban developments and it’s considered part of the Atlanta metropolitan complex.

Ella and Daddy had a field day with fresh fish menus. Ella loved to fish. It was her major hobby. We had a steady supply of freshwater fish during my childhood.

At the early age of 10, I was a quick fish cleaner at the stand with a water hose situated right behind the community cabin. This is the recipe Ella taught me when I was first married.


Ella’s Fried Fish and Hush Puppies

Fish of your choice

Flour and cornmeal to dredge the fish in

2 eggs, beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

Dash of cayenne pepper

Crisco with a touch of bacon drippings

Wash and pat dry the fish. Add seasonings to cornmeal. Roll the fish in the flour to coat, shake off excess. Dip in egg mixture and dredge in cornmeal.

Heat about 1/2 inch of Crisco (or vegetable oil if you prefer) in your cast iron skillet. Get it hot – not smoking, but it sizzles when you splash droplets of water in it. Drop fish into oil. Turn once; when golden brown remove to paper towel.


Ella’s Hush Puppies

1  1/2  cups cornmeal

1/2 cup of flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 onion chopped

1 cup of buttermilk

Dash red pepper

Mix all dry ingredients. Beat the egg and milk together. Mix all ingredients and drop by large spoonful into hot oil. Turn and cook until golden brown.


Red Rice

from former First Lady of Georgia, Mrs. Ellis Arnall

4 strips of bacon

2 onions, finely chopped

1 ( 6 oz) can of tomato paste

1 1/2 to 2 tomato paste cans of water

2 teaspoons of salt

2 - 3 teaspoons of sugar

Dash of pepper

1 1/2 cups of raw rice

4 tablespoons of bacon grease

Fry bacon. Remove and drain on paper towel. Sauté onions in bacon grease. Add tomato paste, water, salt, sugar and pepper. Cook slowly, about 10 minutes, until mixture measures two cups. Add to rice in the top of a double boiler. Add additional grease and steam over simmering water for half hour. Add crumbled bacon and stir in with a fork. Cook 30 to 45 minutes longer.


Monroe resident Jeanne Howell has attended cooking schools in San Francisco, Atlanta, Charlotte and Monroe. She and a partner are working on a cooking video project. She may be reached at 704-221-1905 or