A Supremely Comforting One-Pot Rice Dish

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Andie McMahon.

When I called the chef and pitmaster Rodney Scott first thing in the morning for an interview, he asked if he could put me on hold: He was taking coffee to the crew at one of his restaurants, Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ, in Charleston, S.C.

Giving back, saying thank you with gestures like this, has been a North Star for Scott since he was a teenager working at his parents’ many businesses, including a barbecue restaurant, about two hours away in Hemingway, S.C.

For instance, on the Saturday before Easter, the Black businesses in the neighborhood would get together and host a big party for the community. There was a D.J. at first and eventually a stage (which Scott built himself) for live music. There was free food, too, most notably a supremely comforting one-pot rice dish, perloo, a Lowcountry staple with roots in West Africa.

Recipe: Chicken Perloo

Scott recalls these “give-back picnics,” as he called them, as a chance for out-of-towners returning for Easter to reunite with friends and family. Some of the older guys would say, “Let’s throw a pot together right quick” — which meant putting a giant cast-iron cauldron over an open fire outside and getting the perloo started. While they waited for someone to come back from the store with rice, those who remained sautéed some leftover meat, often smoked chicken, but anything would work; could be pork, could be deer. It didn’t matter, he said. What did matter was the spirit of the gathering: “It gave you an opportunity to see people you hadn’t seen in awhile.”

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