Okra love. Okay, I admit it, I have a mad crush on this vegetable. From okra pickles to okra and tomato stir-fry, I’m finding every excuse to make something with okra. It just tastes so good! Sort of like the best tasting green bean, but even better. And the okra plants, new to my garden this year, are thriving, putting forth pods to pick every other day.
This okra rice pilaf recipe, known as okra pilau, is a southern staple, particularly of South Carolina, in whose swampy lands rice has been cultivated since colonial days. It’s simple; you just render bacon fat, cook chopped onions, peppers, and okra briefly in it, add rice, stock, and cook until done. Stir in chopped cooked bacon at the end. Whatever sliminess the famously slimy okra produces while cooking gets absorbed by the rice, and what you’re left with is just lovely okra, and okra and bacon infused rice.
Ever make something that you don’t want to share because you just want to keep it all for yourself? Yeah. This is one of those.
From what I understand (if there are any South Carolinians out there, please advise me if I’m off base here) shrimp, sausage, and/or black eyed peas are often added to the pilau, making for a more substantial meal than what I’m presenting here. The dish is also curiously known as “Limpin’ Susan”, but I can find no reference to the etymology of that name.
If you love bacon and rice and have been sitting on the fence about okra, this is the recipe to try. I think you will be pleased.
Okra Pilau Recipe
- 4 slices of bacon (about 5 ounces), chopped
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
- 2 cups okra, sliced into disks, 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick (fresh or frozen, thawed)
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt (use less salt if using seasoned broth)
- 1 cup long-grain rice
- 1 3/4 cup chicken stock*
*Review the instructions on your package of rice for how much liquid is needed for your particular brand of rice. Some rice calls for a 1:1 1/2 ratio, some 1:2 ratio, rice to liquid. Use whatever ratio is indicated by your rice package.
1 Spread the chopped bacon out in a pot so it covers the bottom completely and turn the heat to medium. Fry it until it's crispy, then remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.
2 Add the onion and green pepper and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the okra and turn the heat to high. Add the cayenne, salt and rice and stir-fry for 1 minute.
3 Stir in the chicken broth, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook until the rice is done, about 20 minutes. Fluff up the rice with a fork and stir in the chopped bacon.
Yield: Serves 4-6 as a side dish.