Pronounced “purr-low,” this signature Low Country dish is perhaps one of my all time favorites. It is also a prime example of how the cuisine across the Low County is heavily influenced by many disparate cultures, mainly West African and Jamaican in this case. I’ve heard it said by some well known chefs that Perlou is the same as Jambalaya and I could not disagree more. Yes the etymology of the word “Jambalaya” may encompass “Perlou” but I think of Jambalaya as a French-Spanish dish while Perlou is a West Africa-Caribbean dish. Purlou doesn’t contain creole seasonings like Jambalaya and the Perlou I grew up eating did not have tomatoes, garlic, or shrimp, and seldom had bell pepper. If bell pepper was used, the quantity was very small.
Like a lot of the recipes I post, you will be rewarded by not taking short cuts. There are Perlou recipes that are quite bland since they don’t use a well developed broth or too salty because bouillons are used, and then there is Tal Etheridge’s Perlou. Tal has passed on but not before teaching me the finer art of cooking the best Perlou I ever ate. Incidentally, Tal also taught me how to cook “whole hog” and there was never a time that we cooked whole hog that we did not have a pot of chicken perlou on the fire!
- 1 whole chicken divided (see note of dividing a chicken)
- ¼ pound of chopped fat back or salt pork (Use speck or bacon if you can't find this ingredient)
- 1 pound of link or rope sausage sliced to ½" thickness (see note)
- 1 medium onion chopped fine
- 2 stalks of celery chopped fine
- 2 cups of long grain rice (see note)
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- In a stew pot or dutch oven over medium flame, place the fat back and sausage. Fry until fat renders and crispy bits start to form on the bottom.
- Add the onion and celery; cook until translucent
- Turn heat to low
- Pepper the chicken well and arrange in the pot skin side up on top of the sausage in a way that "seals" the fat back, sausage, and vegetables.
- Cook the chicken until it falls off the bone (About 1 to 1½ hours)
- Remove pot from flame (there will be a very flavorful broth in the pot)
- You may debone and de-skin the chicken if you must (traditional Low Country Perlou the way I grew up eating it was not de-boned)
- Skim some of the fat from the broth (You need to leave a little fat in the pot, about a ¼ cup)
- Bring the stock back to a low boil and then reduce heat to medium-low
- Add rice to broth and then add chicken meat
- Cook covered until the rice is tender (add water if the broth is absorbed and the rice is not fully cooked)
- Season with salt to your preference
- Season with black pepper (I love liberal amounts of black pepper in this dish)
- Serve hot with Gullah Gravy Low Country Moppin' Sauce on the side
Chicken (whole): In today's world of hustle and bustle, most people buy pre-cut chicken parts and have no clue how to properly divide a chicken for a recipe like this one. When properly separated, you should have 2 wings, 2 long thighs or "legs", 2 short thighs, 2 breasts, and 2 back halves. You may also separate out the wishbone. If you don't know how to cut up a chicken, then buy a whole chicken and ask your butcher to divide it for you.
Rice: Use a high quality long grain rice that has a low percentage of cracked or broken grains. Higher quality rice brands will divulge the percent of rice that is broken. Anson Mills has brought back the Carolina Gold rice varietal which has an outstanding flavor. Any long grain white rice will do but the higher quality rice will yield a better flavor and grains that separate when cooked.