When you want to eat produce known for being from a certain region, your best bet for new ideas is to go to the source. In this case, we were looking for yet another way to cook up okra — not that we don’t already have several tasty ways of cooking okra; we can never have too many good okra recipes — so we checked in Simple, Fresh, Southern, by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, aka the Lee Bros., and found pretty much this recipe for Mushroom and Okra Purloo (we did change it ever so slightly).
Now, there might be a few people who may not have heard of, much less tried, a purloo, which is a thick stew made with rice and other ingredients, very similar to a pilaf. Well, really nearly the same. Actually, we don’t think you’d go too far amiss if you called this Mushroom and Okra Pilaf.
Serves 4 as a main
As we’ll remark in more detail below, feel free to substitute another type of rice for the basmati. Jasmine would work well, or converted rice. Just don’t think about using “minute rice” or brown rice; neither has the same cooking times. For the bell pepper, we used a nice bright yellow one that made our purloo colored a bright red, green, and yellow. For the vegetable broth, we whipped up a batch by simmering an onion, a garlic clove, a couple of bay leaves, a carrot, and a widgy ear of corn, along with a touch of pepper and salt. If you really want, we suppose you could use a store-bought broth, or bullion, although we’ve never found any that we really like. They’re either too sweet or too salty.
Procedure in detail:
Mise en Place. This recipe has a number of things that you need to get done prior to cooking. We’ll just list them in the order that we did them: made broth to which we added the wine, rinsed rice, washed and chopped vegetables (mushrooms, okra, onion, garlic, and tomatoes), and put together a small bowl with the herbs.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Adjust rack so your dutch oven will fit inside.
Cook onions. Heat dutch oven and oil over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown, about 6 minutes.
Add rice and garlic. Stir in the rice and garlic and allow them to cook, stirring continuously, until the rice smells toasty and the garlic begins to brown, about 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes and spices. Now, stir in the diced tomatoes and the spices, and, again, stirring continuously, cook until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 2 more minutes.
Add broth and wine. Stir in the broth and wine, and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add vegetables. In three additions, gently fold in the vegetables. We’re not sure why you need three additions here, as there is a lot of broth and the vegetables don’t really fold in very well. Then bring everything back to a simmer.
Bake. Cover the purloo and place it in the oven to bake for 20 minutes. Rice cooks by steam, so don’t open anything to peek. That would be cheating, anyway. Just trust the purloo.
Rest. Remove the purloo from the oven and let rest, continuing to trust that it’s just fine without your looking, for 10 minutes. Use this time to set the table and do any other last-minute chores to get everything ready for dinner.
Serve. Either bowls or plates will work for serving this dish as the rice has absorbed most of the liquid.
In the future, we’ll use another kind of rice for our purloo. The basmati rice we used (Royal Brand), tended to break apart; that’s kind of the nature of basmati rice, as it’s very tender. In the future, we’ll use a type that’s a bit more sturdy. Also, it seemed as though it could have used just a touch more salt, but, of course, that’s why we put salt shakers on the table. But, other than that, this was a great way to have okra (no, it wasn’t slimy) as a one-dish meal. It’s different enough that you don’t just think of it as just another rice casserole, and we really like the bright colors, especially with the yellow pepper. Plus, it was just as good the next day as leftovers (although the rice had broken down further). Four stars and a hearty thanks to the Lee Bros.