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Melba Wilson’s Chicken Perlo


Makes 6 to 8 servings

3 pounds chicken, whole or parts (preferably breasts, thighs, and legs)
6 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
6 bay leaves
1 pound smoked kielbasa or sage sausage, cut in ¼-inch dice
1 large white onion, diced
¼ cup canola oil, as needed
2 cups uncooked long-grain rice


In a 6-quart pot, combine the chicken, broth, salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.

Take the chicken out of the broth. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones, and cut the meat into bite-size pieces—or pull it apart, which is the way my Grandma Amelia preferred to do it.

Remove the bay leaves and measure 4 cups of the broth, adding water if you don’t have enough. Taste to be sure it’s well seasoned. Remember, you’re going to add rice, so a little extra seasoning won’t hurt. If the broth isn’t seasoned to your liking, now’s the time to spice it up. Return the broth to the pot.

Put the sausage in a dry skillet and set over medium-low heat. When the sausage has rendered its fat, add the onion. If there isn’t enough fat in the pan to sauté the onion, add the tablespoon of canola oil. Sauté until the onion is caramelized and the sausage is a bit brown around the edges, about 5 to 8 minutes. The kielbasa is already cooked, but if you’re using the sage sausage, you need to be sure that it’s cooked all the way through.

Add the chicken, sausage and onion mixture, and the rice to the broth in the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let the rice sit, still covered, for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and you’ve got it! Great country perlo, just like Grandma used to make!