Must Be Perloo must be great comfort food for sportsmen

(Picture by Jerry Dilsaver)

This month’s recipe began as a refrigerator cleaning exercise and developed into this dish. It isn’t quite jambalaya, but it shares the style and some ingredients, and it isn’t quite paella, but it shares the style and some ingredients, too.

It’s a southern dish that began by using rice as the primary filler to stretch a limited amount of meat, and except for the pre-cooked rice, it can be cooked in one cast-iron pan, it must be perloo. It really isn’t quite perloo, either, but we couldn’t decide what to call it, and after a lengthy discussion after a meal with no leftovers, we decided it must be perloo. Whatever you choose to choose to call it, I believe you’ll like it, and it isn’t difficult to prepare.

What is perloo? That’s a good question. I grew up enjoying a dish my father called shrimp perloo that was shrimp, rice, tomato paste, peppers and onions, and it was good. It wasn’t until much later that I realized it originated as a way to stretch a limited amount of meat by using rice.

I have some Cajun cousins who say it’s a cheap knockoff of jambalaya that doesn’t include the spices, and some Florida cracker cousins that call it a cheap and easy way to make paella. I like jambalaya and paella, too, so calling it a copy of one of them is okay by me.

This particular version isn’t what my father made, but a quickie version that can be put together to make use of whatever meat is available. I began using it as a way to stretch partial packages of venison and feral pig sausage, and almost everyone has enjoyed it. This version is simple and should have folks at your table asking for more.

The author mixes the ingredients in his Must Be Perloo into a cast-iron skillet for cooking. (Picture by Jerry Dilsaver)

March is an in-between time in the Southeast, and a good time to give this a go. You should have some venison and may have or be adding feral pork. Enjoy the sunny days, and when a cold snap or rain holds you inside for a day, put this together and enjoy it.

We’re almost to the excellent outdoor opportunities for Spring 2021. Daylight Saving Time begins on March 14, and spring arrives on March 20. This hour of daylight transferred to the evening and the warming weather will give sportsmen more time after work to slip into the turkey woods or drown some worms. It will also be a good time to enjoy some “Must be Perloo.” The shorter prep time and the fact that any leftovers warm well make it a great meal to have when returning home a little after dark when fishing, hunting or scouting for your next outing.  It’s pretty good for lunch too.


Must be perloo

This is a sort of sideways way to make a perloo dish, but it has become a favorite over the years. The biggest difference is the meat and vegetables aren’t cooked in the rice. The rice is already cooked, and this works particularly well for me, as I cook rice in bulk, then refrigerate it and have it ready to warm and eat or add into any dish I like. I used white rice for this particular meal, but brown rice also works well.

The directions of the rice package may be slightly different, especially between white and brown rice, but you will basically follow them. I like my rice fluffy and with a little flavor of its own, so I alter the rice directions just a little. When you add bouillon, do not get heavy handed, as it is very salty.

This recipe calls for venison or feral pork sausage; I like the taste of sausage and often have a partial package in the refrigerator’s meat drawer. However, this can be made with almost any meat, seafood or combination of meat and seafood. Small amounts of chicken and shrimp combine well with the sausage.

Depending on the meat you use and how much fat you blend into your game, there may not be much for drippings to sauté the onions, pepper and garlic. When this happens, add a little oil, butter or non-stick cooking spray to the pan. I mix my game sausage very lean and usually have to add some buttery flavored, non-stick cooking spray to sauté the veggies. If the pan looks dry, I also give it another shot before adding the rice.

The finished product is a great example of late-winter comfort food for sportsmen. (Picture by Jerry Dilsaver)

Regular readers know I’m not a stickler about the ingredients and the amounts of ingredients or spices. If you don’t like something, don’t add it. Conversely, if you like something a lot, add a little more. I do this with the black pepper and jalapeno peppers when I’m fixing only for myself. I have a friend in St. Augustine, Fla., who raises datil peppers. When he shares some of them, I use them in this when fixing it either for myself or my friends with robust palates who like spice. Datil peppers are a real treat, as they are lightly sweet, but they’re a few notches above jalapenos on the heat scale.

The mini bell peppers are for taste and appearance. I think they’re milder than larger bell peppers, and the multiple colors gives some appeal. If you can’t find mini bells, use a red, orange or colored larger bell pepper. They don’t have the hard edge like some green bell peppers.

This recipe calls for your choice of chopped tomatoes or Rotel. I always use Rotel when I can. The choice of original, mild, hot or any of the other blends is up to you. I don’t think the hot is that hot, but be warned; it uses habanero peppers, while the others use green chilies.

The last thing on the ingredients list is smoked paprika — a nice way to add a little hint of smoked flavor to the mix. I have friends who like a variety of sauces from soy sauce to sriracha sauce. If you like a particular sauce with rice, try it on a bite or two.

Must Be Perloo is really tasty and very simple to make. With the rice already cooked, prepping the peppers and onion is the hardest and most time-consuming part. If you cook rice just for this, its simmer time should give you plenty of time to prep the veggies. This is not a conventional way to make perloo, but since it isn’t jambalaya or paella and counts on rice to make the meal, as the name implies, it Must Be Perloo. We occasionally find ourselves intentionally having leftover or extra portions of meat that are too small for a meal, but can be stretched into one with a few veggies and rice. This is comfort food that is filling and I’m pretty sure if you try it once, you’ll have it again.

Enjoy!


INGREDIENTS:

1/2  to 1 pound venison or feral pig sausage

3 cups cooked rice

1/2 sweet onion

1 Jalapeno pepper

1 pack variety mini bell peppers

1/2 can chopped green chilies

1/2 can chopped tomatoes or Rotel

2 tsp chopped garlic

Salt, pepper (to taste)

Smoked paprika (to taste)

Sauces as desired

PREPARATION:

A note on cooking the rice: basically, follow the directions on the package. I add a little more water than required so the rice will be fluffy and not stick to the pan. I also use about 2/3 of a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon — or a similar amount of bouillon cubes — per cup of water. Most package directions suggest a little butter or oil in the pan to prevent sticking. I use a splash of olive oil, even if the directions don’t suggest it.

Chop the onion and peppers. Cook the sausage until almost done and remove from pan. If you have a second meat, cook or warm it with the sausage. Sauté onion, peppers and garlic in sausage drippings. Drain the chopped tomatoes (Rotel) and chopped green chilies and stir into pan.

Stir in rice and blend well over low heat for a couple of minutes. Add sausage and any second meat to mixture and warm to serving temperature while adding salt and pepper. Serve warm. Sprinkle paprika or sauces over individual servings to taste.

This is pretty much a meal in itself.  A green salad or lettuce wedge is a nice addition and a light dessert, like flan or pudding, caps it off well.

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