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Cookbook tells a low country love story

Charleston Chicken Purlow

4 cups chopped, cooked chicken
7 cups chicken broth, divided
4 cups uncooked regular rice
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine the chicken and two cups chicken broth. Cover and set aside. In a Dutch oven, combine the remaining broth, rice, bacon, eggs and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 35 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Drain the chicken and gently stir it into the cooked rice mixture. Cover and let stand 15 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly heated. Spoon into serving dish.

“The Food, Folklore, and Art of Lowcountry Cooking: A Celebration of The Foods, History and Romance Handed Down from England, Africa, The Caribbean, France, Germany and Scotland”

Low country and Southern cooking was a lifelong love of Joseph Dabney’s, and once he retired he decided to focus on studying the history, telling the story and sharing the recipes for all of his favorite dishes.

Whether it’s scuppernong wine, Carolina gold rice or low country boils, Dabney delves into the history and the regional tastes of Southern favorites in his cookbooks.

The latest, “The Food, Folklore and Art of Lowcountry Cooking: A Celebration of The Foods, History and Romance Handed Down from England, Africa, The Caribbean, France, Germany and Scotland,” focuses on the low country of coastal Georgia and South Carolina and the traditional cooking techniques used there.

“Their (low country) cuisine is based primarily on the seafood,” Dabney said. “... they have a tremendous amount of shellfish, shrimp, oysters, crabs and so forth, and I guess the greatest dish would be She-Crab Soup, which is a wonderful dish that uses the roe or the eggs of the she-crab and it has sherry in it and it’s just a great dish.”

Dabney launched his writing career as a journalist, serving as the managing editor for The Times in the 1950s. Following that job, he was the state editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Dabney’s fourth book, “Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread and Scuppernong Wine,” won the James Beard Award for Cookbook of the Year in 1999. In his most recent cookbook, he tells the history behind wild game, purloos, low country beverages and Southern side dishes, along with desserts.

But for Dabney, one of his favorite dishes is the chicken purlow.

“The rest of the country calls it pilaf but in the low country it’s called purlow (pur-loo), and so my favorite dish is chicken purlow,” he said.

It took Dabney about three years to put together his latest cookbook, which took a year and a half of research that took him to Savannah, Charleston, S.C., and Pawley’s Island, S.C.

While writing the book, Dabney spoke with home cooks and restaurant chefs, gathering low country tips and techniques.

One memorable trip to Conway, S.C., taught him all about “chicken bog.”

“Chicken bog is one of the most unheralded and most unknown dish,” he said. “It is similar to the pilafs or purlows; you use a lot of rice and a lot of broth and add meats and so forth to it.”

The low country recipes seem to have a common thread in ingredients and preparation — ease.

Whether it is shrimp or wild boar, the low country cooks use the best ingredients that are home grown and on hand for tasty dishes.

“Charleston and the low country was America’s first great rice fields,” he said. “... now Carolina gold has made a big comeback and is for sale and is available and being sold over in South Carolina, particularly in place called Darlington County.

“It’s amazing that they’ve been able to rescue that particular strain of rice.”

The book, “The Food, Folklore and Art of Lowcountry Cooking,” was released on May 13 and is available in most book stores and on

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