Linda Altman of Mount Pleasant is on the hunt for recipes for red rice, chicken or shrimp pilau, etc., that can be made in an electric rice cooker.

Now, if you just moved to town yesterday, white rice is Charleston’s starch. Grits are a close second, maybe neck and neck. But anything else — potatoes, pasta, beans, what have you — pales in comparison.

Just look at the amount of shelf space that rice occupies at the grocery store, especially if that store is locally based.

Local palates are trained from an early age, a culinary tradition that sprung from the rice plantations that flourished in the Lowcountry in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, native Charlestonians of middle age and older can recall when a pot of rice on the stove was an everyday thing.

Rice remains an integral part of Lowcountry cuisine even as our food choices have expanded.

Sharon Cook of Charleston sent a red rice recipe (later in this column) our way. While that recipe is made in a Dutch oven, Sharon offers some advice about cooking rice in general.

“I have a rice cooker, but rarely use it. However, when I was using it, I could easily make red rice and other rice combination recipes successfully by sauteing the rice in another pot and then transferring it to the rice cooker when I reached the point of adding liquid and turning it to simmer. Forgoing the sauteing step and trying to do everything in the rice cooker generally yielded mushy results. Most rice pilaf and rice combination recipes require the sauteing step to ensure that rice grains remain separable and not a mushy mess, regardless of whether they are cooked in a rice cooker or a Dutch oven or a roaster, at least that has been my experience.”

Here are two of Sharon’s rice cooker recipes:

Shrimp LaFourche

Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients

1 cup rice, uncooked

1 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup each of chopped green pepper and celery

1 pound shiitake or baby bella mushrooms, sliced

1 (10-ounce) can beef broth

1 stick butter

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined (or 1 pound crawfish, peeled and deveined)

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter; add rice, onion, green pepper, celery, and mushroom. Saute just until vegetables are softened. Pour this mixture into rice cooker. Add granulated garlic, beef broth and shrimp; salt and pepper to taste. Turn rice cooker on and cover with lid. When bell rings, stir well, dinner is done and ready to be eaten.

Rice Cooker Jambalaya

Serves 2 to 4

Ingredients

1 (4-ounce) can diced jalapeno peppers

1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained

1 (6-ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained

2 links smoked sausage, diced

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

11/2 cups short-grained rice

4 teaspoons butter

1 medium onion and 1 medium bell pepper, diced

2 ribs celery, diced

1 (10-ounce) can chicken broth

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Place all ingredients into rice cooker and set to cook. When bell rings, fluff mixture with a fork and serve! (If you have leftover baked or roasted chicken, you can also add it to this dish.)

This is red rice to make ahead and freeze, or make for a crowd. The recipe makes a large batch.

Sharon says she divides the mixture into two 9x13-inch baking dishes and places one in the freezer. “This keeps beautifully in freezer for up to six months.”

She also says this makes a great side dish, but can also be used as a main dish, see serving options below.

Lastly, “Because of the bacon drippings and tomato juice, I do not find it necessary to add any additional salt, but you may want to add it to suit your taste.”

Spicy Red Rice

Makes two 9x13-inch pans

Ingredients

2/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

3 cups brown rice (or long-grained white rice)

1 pound hot smoked sausage or kielbasa, cut into fourths lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch pieces

3/4 cup each finely diced celery, onion and red bell pepper

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies

4 cups V-8 or tomato juice

2 cups beef broth

Directions

Heat olive oil and bacon drippings in large Dutch oven or oval roasting pan on medium high heat on stove for 5 minutes. Add rice, sausage pieces, celery, onion and red bell pepper and stir-fry until onions begin to caramelize and sausage is brown at edges, approximately 8-10 minutes. Stir in cumin, red pepper flakes, garlic and steak seasoning.

Add black beans, tomatoes and green chilies, tomato juice, and beef broth. Bring to a full rolling boil. Turn heat down to low, cover with lid, and let simmer for 25 minutes. Fluff with serving fork — do not use a spoon to stir or rice will become mushy — and serve.

If not serving right away, place in 175-degree oven uncovered for up to 2 hours. Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil on top if it seems to be getting dry.

Options

A 1-pound bag of frozen gumbo vegetables or frozen cut okra can be added to top of casserole before placing in oven, if desired.

Stirring 1 to 2 tablespoons ketchup into individual servings will reduce the spicy heat factor for those who like a milder flavor.

Additional add-in options: cooked shrimp and/or roasted chicken.

Cake part two

A few weeks ago we fielded a request for Ireacindia Frazier of Moncks Corner for cupcakes. Part two of that request was for butter cakes.

We heard from Judy McCoy of Ladson, who writes, “This recipe was in a Pillsbury Flour Recipe book that I received as a shower gift before my wedding in 1964.”

Kentucky Butter Cake

Ingredients

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

4 unbeaten eggs, one at a time, blending well after each egg.

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk

2 teaspoons pure vanilla

Directions

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

Cream the butter with the sugar. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each egg.

Combine the buttermilk or sour milk and the vanilla. Add alternately with the dry ingredients to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Blend well after each addition. Use slow speed with electric mixer.

Grease the bottom of a 10-inch tube pan with butter and turn mixture into the pan.

Bake at 325 degrees for 60 to 65 minutes until cake springs back when touched in center. Run spatula along edge and stem of pan. Prick cake with fork. Pour butter sauce (recipe follows) over cake. Cool before removing from pan. Just before serving, sprinkle with confectioners sugar.

Butter Sauce

Combine in saucepan: 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup butter. Heat until butter is melted; do not boil. Add 1 tablespoon pure vanilla or rum flavor.

Carol Dotterer of Charleston writes, “Here’s a yummy butter cake recipe I got from an MUSC employee when they had their bake sale for breast cancer treatment in the fall.”

Butter Cake

Ingredients

1 (18-ounce) package yellow cake mix

8 tablespoons butter

3 eggs, divided use

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 tablespoons melted butter

1 (16-ounce) box of confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine cake mix, butter and 1 egg. Mix well with electric mixer.

Put mixture in bottom of lightly greased 13x9-inch baking pan.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add remaining 2 eggs, vanilla and melted butter and beat together.

Add powdered sugar and mix well. Spread over cake batter and bake for 40-50 minutes. Don’t overbake. Center should be a little gooey.

Who’s got the recipe?

A West Ashley reader wants recipes in which fresh mushrooms are the “star” ingredient, or one of the star ingredients, at any rate. Casseroles, pastas, soups, all welcome.

Email food@postandcourier.com or call Food and Features Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.