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February 9, 2022
The Smaller the Bird, the Juicier the Pirloo
Amethyst Ganaway cooking at her home in North Charleston, South Carolina

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A few of these tiny birds can add unmatched flavor to a pot of rice.

Pirloo, perloo, purloo, pelau, pilaf, pilau—these are just six of the many names for one of my favorite rice dishes. The dish has as many names as it does variations found across the world, and in the Lowcountry, we have just as many recipes for it. It’s a one-pot rice dish usually made with some sort of aromatic vegetables and cooked with some kind of meat. The rice absorbs all of the rich flavor from the vegetables and meat, and it coats itself in any fatty goodness that comes from the cooking process as well.

Quail Pirloo Mise en Place

Commonly, you’ll find pirloo made with some sort of poultry, chicken being the most common and versatile meat added. But game birds like quail, squab, and guinea fowl have been eaten by common folk and kings forever, and one of my personal favorite things to do when they’re available is eat a few of the tiny birds (pan-fried or roasted) in one sitting with a little rice and some green veggies. I could only eat a piece or two of chicken in one sitting—but with quail, I can put a few on my plate, and I can tear into the flesh of the greasy little birds with my hands, licking and sucking my fingers, chewing and spitting out their bones like I’m a giant at the head of the table (or Robert Baratheon from Game of Thrones . . . same vibes).

In this pirloo, the quail is spatchcocked before seasoning and pan searing it. The flavor of the birds (and chicken stock) seeps into the rice and gives it phenomenal flavor. This is an extremely simple recipe, but it’s packed full of flavor, and it’s definitely comfort food at its best. If you can’t find quail locally, there are online retailers that sell them year-round. They’re worth the splurge, and while you could easily make this pirloo with a Cornish hen or a full-size chicken (with adjustments), the quail adds a little gamy flavor that you’ll miss by not using it.

RECIPE: Quail Pirloo

Amethyst Ganaway

Amethyst Ganaway is TASTE's current Cook in Residence.