Monday, May 17, 2010

Brunswick stew recipe

brunswick stew
I'm ecstatic right now.  I have a lot of recipes in the queue, but I have to tell you about this one immediately.  One of my absolute favorite meals in the world (perhaps THE favorite) is my grandmother's vegetable soup with cornbread.  The soup has a creamy tomato base with a bit of a kick (thanks to Tabasco), and is filled with butter beans, okra, corn, and potatoes.  My cousins and I fight over the soup, and I'm really hoping that Grandmother remembers that I organized and catalogued her chest freezer last month and will give me at least one of the three containers of soup she has left.  And very similar to her vegetable soup is her perlue stew (a few Google searches revealed that people spell it all kinds of ways: purlo, perlo, and purlew are just a few).  Perlue stew has a very similar base, but typically contains chicken, rice, potatoes, and corn.  It's heavenly as well, but for some reason Grandmother didn't make it nearly as often.  Unfortunately I've been intimidated to make both.  I'm afraid to even attempt her vegetable soup because, let's be real, it won't be the same.  I've pleaded for a recipe, but it's one of those things where she throws things in the pot and "knows" when it's right.  I do have her recipe for purlue stew, but nobody else in the family has succeeded at replicating it (and Mom found out the hard way that you must use a roaster chicken because of its higher fat content).

But then last month I was flooded by recipes for Brunswick stew from the Daring Cooks challenge.  Brunswick stew is a combination of Grandmother's vegetable soup and purlue stew.  It has some kind of meat (typically beef, pork, or chicken along with some random other ones - sometimes squirrel or rabbit), butter beans, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and sometimes okra.  But that creamy tomato base is common among all of three of them (apparently to Burgoo as well, which I've never tried, but is basically Kentucky's version of this stew).  I associate Brunswick stew with barbecue restaurants.  If a restaurant doesn't sell Brunswick stew, don't eat the barbecue there.  Trust me.

The influx of Brunswick stew recipes last month made me drool, and I'm trying to eat up the cooked butter beans I have in my freezer, so I had to make this, and boy am I glad I did.  I don't know if this is the absolute best Brunswick stew I've ever had, but it's pretty close.  I'm used to the Georgia-style stew with beef, so the chicken version (more typical of Virginia) was different but equally as enjoyable.  If it follows the Rule of Soups and Stews (they get better and better as the days go by), I'll be in heaven all week.  And even more exciting is that the base is the exact same creamy tomato base of Grandmother's vegetable soup.  Forget the PhD, I'm far more proud that I've mastered the stew/soup base that I love so much!

Brunswick stew (loosely adapted from What We're Eating)
(Printable version)

2 strips of bacon
1 large onion, chopped
2 small peppers, diced (I used dried Thai chilies because that's all I had, but jalapenos or serranos are preferable)
2 1/2 pounds chicken thighs, skin removed
5 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tsp Tabasco or other hot sauce
freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots, diced
4 small red potatoes, chopped
2 1/2 cups cooked butter beans
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1/3 cup ketchup
1 large can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes

Cook bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat.  When it's done, place it aside on paper towels and crumble it.  Add the onions and peppers to the bacon grease and cook until the onion is tender.  Then push the onions to the side of the pot, and add the chicken, making sure that it's touching the bottom of the pot as much as possible.  Sear the chicken on both sides (a few minutes per side), and then add stock, bay leaves, Tabasco, and black pepper to the pot.  If the chicken isn't covered by the stock, add more until it's almost completely submerged.  Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 min.  Remove the chicken from the pot and set it aside to cool.  Then add carrots, potatoes, butter beans, corn, ketchup, tomatoes, and crumbled bacon to the pot.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it and add the meat to the pot.  Then bring the stew back to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 90 min, stirring occasionally.  If the stew base is very watery, leave the cover off for a while so it can thicken, or add more stock or water if it's too thick.  After the stew is done, mash the stew with a potato masher for a few minutes to create the creamy base.  Taste and add more Tabasco if necessary, and remove the bay leaves.  Serves 6-8.


Joanne said...

This sounds like some serious comfort food. Then again, I feel that way about anything with tabasco and beans.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Next you're gonna go ahead and attempt that perlue, right? :) And share with us? This sounds great.

Katie said...

Joanne - I agree, and I'm pretty sure I would be happy only eating beans, rice, and tabasco for a long time.

Alta - It will probably have to wait until I move because the recipe makes a TON and it would defeat my attempts to empty the freezer, but I will definitely get to it soon. I hope it turns out as good as this stew did!