Many of the one-pot rice dishes in the Lowcountry and the South can trace their origins back to West Africa. There’s jollof rice in West Africa, jambalaya in Louisiana, and here in the Lowcountry? We’ve got red rice and chicken perloo. Chicken perloo has a lot of the same western European and African cooking styles you find in dishes like Spanish paella and Ghanaian jollof rice. However, tender chicken, ambrosial stock, and perfectly fluffed rice make this a true Lowcountry dish.
Excerpt from the new book Gullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from The Matriarch of Edisto Island, by Emily Meggett, published by Abrams. Text © 2022 Emily Meggett. Photography by Clay Williams.
Serves 8 to 10
6 tablespoons bacon grease or vegetable oil
½ pound salt pork, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup roughly chopped onion
5 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon Nature’s Seasons
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 pound cooked chicken thighs, skin removed and roughly chopped
2 ½ cups long-grain white rice, unrinsed
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease or oil over high heat. Once the grease or oil is shimmering, add the salt pork and cook on high heat for 1 minute. Pour the remaining bacon grease or oil into the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the salt pork for about 5 minutes, until browned.
Once browned, remove the salt pork from the pot and set aside. Leave enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the onion and fry for 1 minute. Return the cooked salt pork to the pot and cook the onion and salt pork together over low heat for about 5 minutes, until onion just darkens.
Add the broth, Nature’s Seasons, and poultry seasoning and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, add the chicken. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add the rice. Adjust the heat to medium-low and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.
If using a steamer, transfer the rice mixture to the top of the steamer, cover, and steam over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until done. If you’re using the regular pot, continue to cook the rice mixture on medium-low heat for 20 to 25 minutes, until the rice has absorbed all of the broth. Once done, stir the rice with a fork, and serve immediately.
Author: Emily MeggettThe first major Gullah Geechee cookbook from "the matriarch of Edisto Island," who provides delicious recipes and the history of an overlooked American communityThe history of the Gullah and Geechee people stretches back centuries, when enslaved members of this community were historically isolated from the rest of the South because of their location on the Sea Islands of coastal South Carolina and Georgia. Today, this Lowcountry community represents the most direct living link to the traditional culture, language, and foodways of their West African ancestors. Gullah Geechee Home Cooking, written by Emily Meggett, the matriarch of Edisto Island, is the preeminent Gullah cookbook. At 89 years old, and with more than 50 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Meggett is a respected elder in the Gullah community of South Carolina. She has lived on the island all her life, and even at her age, still cooks for hundreds of people out of her hallowed home kitchen. Her house is a place of pilgrimage for anyone with an interest in Gullah Geechee food. Meggett's Gullah food is rich and flavorful, though it is also often lighter and more seasonal than other types of Southern cooking. Heirloom rice, fresh-caught seafood, local game, and vegetables are key to her recipes for regional delicacies like fried oysters, collard greens, and stone-ground grits. This cookbook includes not only delicious and accessible recipes, but also snippets of the Meggett family history on Edisto Island, which stretches back into the 19th century. Rich in both flavor and history, Meggett's Gullah Geechee Home Cooking is a testament to the syncretism of West African and American cultures that makes her home of Edisto Island so unique.About the AuthorMeggett, Emily: – Emily Meggett is the 87-year-old matriarch of the Gullah community on Edisto Island, South Carolina. She has been featured on television and in print by PBS, the Food Network, Bon Appétit, Eater, and NPR. She is also a member of the family who was raised in the Point of Pines cabin, a 19th-century slave cabin from Edisto Island that has been relocated to Washington, DC, as the central exhibit of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Her website is www.motheroftheisland.com/. Meggett lives in Edisto Island, South Carolina.$42.00
Excerpt FromGullah Geechee Home Cooking: Recipes from The Matriarch of Edisto Island, by Emily Meggett, published by Abrams. Text © 2022 Emily Meggett. Photography by Clay Williams.