Monday, May 17, 2010
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)
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.