Vivian Howard was raised on this humble comfort dish, known as a "bog" in her neck of the woods. Boiling the chicken till it falls off the bone yields a flavorful broth for the rice to soak up, resulting in a rich, silky porridge that's plump with chicken. Think of it as Southern risotto!
Remove gizzards and liver from chicken and discard; keep the neck (optional). Place chicken—and neck, if using—into a large Dutch oven or pot, breast side up. Add enough cool water to just barely cover the chicken. Over high heat, bring to a boil. While heating, season with ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and add bay leaves and onion if using. When boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook, about 1 hour.
After an hour, chicken should be fully cooked and falling off the bone. Turn off heat, remove lid, and let rest in the broth, 30 minutes.
Remove chicken from the pot and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, season the broth with remaining black pepper and salt. Bring back to a boil and stir in rice; lower heat and simmer uncovered, 1 minute. Stir and cook another 8–20 minutes, depending on the cooking directions of the type of rice you're using.
Meanwhile, pull the chicken into sizable chunks, discarding the bones, skin, and fat; pour any juices that run off back into the chicken meat. When the rice is cooked, add chicken back to the pot. Stir, cover, and simmer, 10 more minutes.
After 10 minutes, the rice will have absorbed most of the broth, yielding a soupy consistency. (At this point, add more broth if desired.) Season with more black pepper and salt to taste. Stir in the lemon juice. Sprinkle with more black pepper and serve immediately.
To liven up this humble dish you may add fresh spinach, kale, or chopped tomatoes, or stir in a dollop of pesto. Feel free to get creative and make this dish your own!