Chicken Perlo (pilau)
My parents had children late in life. My dad was in his 40th year when I was born. In my earliest memories of my dad, he’s thin, has a huge smile, and a head full of curly grey hair. He’s wearing running shoes and holding me close.
My late-in-his-life birth plus the fact that he’s the youngest of four kids in his family meant that I never met his parents, my grandmother and grandfather. As all Southern boys do, my dad refers to his mom as “Mother.”
My grandmother, Helen, from what I gather, was a classic Southern lady. She raised her kids and cooked memorable food. I’d say most of the family, even my mother who married into the family, remember her potato dinner rolls best. I’ve found the recipe that my mama weaseled from my dad’s Mother but it seems incomplete…I could never recreate it. An indiscriminate amount of flour is listed along with an unknown amount of salt. There are no rising times nor tips for preparing the rolls. Sometimes things are best left to memory.
This meal is one of the few meals I remember my dad cooking for our family. Like me, he never dared touch the potato rolls, but this chicken perlo is something he couldn’t lay to rest along with his mother when she passed. The ingredient list and preparation is so simple it almost seems silly to blog. Could a simple meal of chicken, rice, salt, and pepper really stand out enough?
Some recipes I’ve seen add sausage or aromatics to the chicken broth. Sometimes a can of tomatoes even bastardizes the dish. I’ll never do it that way. The simple goodness of this traditional Southern meal shall not be messed with.
Make this dish on a cold day when the rain doesn’t stop. Make this dish when you are feeling uninspired and hoping that simple really is better (it is). Make this dish when your pantry is void of staples but you deserve to eat well. Make this dish when you’re thinking of your parents and your parents’ parents and realizing that though they may be gone, they are not forgotten.
- One whole chicken, skin on
- enough water to cover chicken in a large pot
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cups long grained rice
- 2 tsp – 3 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp crushed black pepper
- 1 cup water
- Place chicken in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook 1 hour.
- Remove chicken from pot and set aside.
- Reserve 3 cups of cooking liquid.
- When chicken is cool, remove skin and pick meat from bones. Chop chicken into small pieces.
- In a large pot, combine 3 cups cooking liquid, diced onion, salt, pepper, rice, and diced chicken. Stir once.
- Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook 25 minutes or until rice is tender.