Sunday, August 09, 2009

A Favorite August Recipe

By nature I am a non-recipe cook. I use cookbooks and recipes only when I need specific information or a certain technique. One of the things I love about cooking is experimentation, the freedom to be creative. But there is one recipe that I follow faithfully at around this time every summer: Chicken Purloo. I found it in the NY Times when I was looking for okra ideas. Although it is almost absurdly involved, it's worth it.

Mini eggplant arrive at my farmer's market in August.

Since this is essentially the only recipe I follow, I get kind of anal with it, prepping carefully and laying everything out in a nice mise-en-place.
Carefully arranged diced vegetables, with leather-bound copy of Freud's The Ego and the Id.

Purloo is a New Orleans/African style baked rice dish. There are layers of vegetables, rice, and chicken that cook together in a big pot. You begin by browning chicken pieces - I used to cut up a whole chicken but I found that the white meat parts don't respond well to this kind of cooking, so now I go with thighs and legs. The foundation of the dish is something that is apparently very common in New Orleans cooking - a dice of green pepper, celery, and onion. Better to pronounce it "on-yown," like Justin Wilson used to. This, along with eggplant, a bay leaf, some dried thyme and crushed chili flakes, becomes the first layer in a large pot.
First layer of cooked vegetables. Already the house smells great.

Then comes a layer of rice, toasted in oil to minimize sticking when the dish is baked. After that comes a layer of okra and smoked ham cooked with tomatoes and a bit of wine. I use canned San Marzano tomatoes because they are the greatest sauce tomato that I know of. Why don't I use fresh tomatoes? I 'm following a recipe here...
Tasso (smoked ham) and tomatoes provide flavor and aroma, okra acts as a thickener.

Lastly, the browned chicken and some stock. Cover the pot and into the oven for a little over an hour. Let it rest for 10 minutes or so, take out the chicken so you can stir the real bounty, the rice and all of the vegetables.
Moist, tender chicken and highly perfumed rice. Need I say more?

My wife hates when I make this dish because it heats up the house on an already hot August day. But she does love eating Purloo. I suggest doubling the recipe - it keeps well in the fridge and packs great lunches.And now, let's get down to the real point of this post, the wine. I've tried several wines over the years with Chicken Purloo, all them perfectly fine. But this year I hit on a truly excellent companion for this dish, by my tastes anyway. I'm going to tell you what it is, but before I do that (in the comment section in a day or so), let me ask you this: what would you drink with this dish?


Tista said...

And a good invitation to dialogue.

I would have to go for the simple choice of a Grenache or Mourvedre based rosé, or a Barbera.

gcarl said...

I would also use only thighs in this recipe, as breasts always get kind of tough and dry cooked in this manner.

I agree with Tista's wine choice. The '93 Tempier' Bandol rouge I opened last night would have been great with this dish as would a nice rose or a Rhone which is predominately Grenache.

Off to the market to look for eggplant and okra.

My favorite canned tomatoes are Saporito, from Stanislaus. Unfortunately, I've only found them in 6 pound+ cans. They are so good, I usually eat some straight from the can as I cook.

Cliff said...

For me rosé or sparkling would be good, perhaps the best bet. In the winter, a nice Gruner Veltliner would be good, but they tend to be a little heavy for summer. Maybe a Federspiel, or a Riesling Feinherb from the MSR. If you want to take a chance, I'd go for a low tannin but earthy, rustic red (tomato and tannin hate each other): I'm thinking a Fer Servadou or something like Redortier's Beaumes Rouge.

Cliff said...

After a moment's reflection definitely a Bonarda frizzante. That would be great for summer.

TWG said...


Brooklynguy said...

Tista! So good to know that you still haunt these parts. I came very close top opening a Bandol rosé, and I bet it sould have been lovely.

gcarl - 93 Bandol wouldn't be too big for this dish? sounds interesting. nice tomato tip, thanks.

hey Cliff - I like Bornard's rose sparkler, but I don;t imagine it would stand up to the richness of this dish. Your Feinherb Riesling idea has me thinking though...

TWG - I love it, that wine works with anything.

I went with a bottle of 2005 Puffeney Poulsard. SOOO delicious, such bright fruit and rustic undertones, such great acidity. And so much better on the second day - really perfumed and pungent. Phenomenal wine, and worked perfectly with the elements of this dish.

Cliff said...

hey Cliff - I like Bornard's rose sparkler, but I don;t imagine it would stand up to the richness of this dish.
As a quasi-official Representative on Mission, I heartily approve the francophile direction here, but Bonarda is an Italian variety that makes a nice, spicy, earthy, and aromatic red that often appears fizz-i-fied.

bill said...

i read this too late to get my vote in but i thought about a white from the jura. maybe a montbourgeau etolie. a blend ( i think) of chard/savignan.

Brooklynguy said...

hey bill - we're on the same wavelength, obviously.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a great wine suggestion, but regarding celery, onions and bell pepper in New Orleans cooking, it's known as the holy trinity and is the basis of virtually every classic NO recipe. Sounds like a great dish!

Ryan Reichert said...

This looks like a marvelous recipe! I'm scheming right now on how I could possible make substitutions to make it veg friendly... tempeh might be in store. Though I am absolutely salivating at the thoughts of the aromatics that must create - chicken and all.

Agreed that some Italian red would be a nice pairing for this - tomato and tannin don't get along as mentioned, but tomato and acid do!

I don't think I've had the pleasure of sampling a Poulsard - I will definitely have to try and find one.

My personal thought was a nice fruity but acidic Pinot Noir or maybe a Chinon rosé.

Thanks for posting this!