Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Brunswick Stew

My "Farming" grandma made a thick southern soup called "Brunswick Stew" in a giant cast iron belly pot on an open flame in the side yard. The side yard was next to the Salt House, across from the "lit'l hay loft" and near the Well-House where she also stored about 2 years worth of grown-and-canned green beans, corn, tomatoes, squash and who knows what else. Historically, Brunswick Stew contained squirrel, and rabbit and many fresh vegetables. Mine has one of those three: fresh vegetables.

Brunswick Stew
(w/gribenes garnish)
The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

As many times as I have eaten this stew, topped biscuits with this stew, and helped stir this stew - I had never made this stew myself. I was more than thrilled to have it as a Daring Cooks challenge recipe for this month. I made enough to feed a Southern Baptist Homecoming, but it freezes really well and may even taste better for the time to marinade. Yes, there are a lot of ingredients, but you can take a short cut if you use frozen fresh already cut veggies. Don't use packaged meats, though. The deep complex flavors that come from browning your meats and building on the tasty bits they create are very important. I'm one of my biggest fans of my own cooking (yeah, I'll say it), but I'd still pass up my own stew for a little restaurant in Durham, NC that I've been going to since I was "this high to a grasshopper".

Bullocks Barbecue and Brunswick Stew

Tommy Bullock and his whole family have been serving folks since his dad opened this restaurant in 1952. I think some of the staff have been there since then, too. When I visit home, I NEVER miss having my bowl of Brunswick Stew with Cole Slaw and multiple baskets of the best Cornbread Hushpuppies ever created. This is a place where Iced Tea means sweetened Iced Tea and you'd have to tell them if ya want it any other way. The waitresses and waiters are not folks passing through on their way to an acting career, this IS their career and they serve you proudly. Along the walls are pictures of many "celebrity types" who have enjoyed the food at Bullocks during various functions, charity events and filming. When I was a teenager I dreamed of having my acting photo up on that wall, too.

The food and the authentic people are why they come, and why they return over and over. The Barbecue is cooked long and slow outside and you can order it sliced or pulled. Bullocks opens at lunch and closes by 8pm and never opens on Sunday or Monday. When you're good, you can call it the way it works for you and your family. They're almost European in that way, but it stops there. This is Southern America down the line: casual, excellent quality, inexpensive, family friendly, cash only, mints and toothpicks on the counter when you pay out. There is always a line, but I've never felt rushed once I sat down. If you're ever near it, try it; You will love it. Until then, making your own will give you an amazing feeling of creating something healthy and rich with history.

RECIPE: From “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners” by Matt Lee and Ted Lee

Serves about 12

1/4 lb slab bacon, rough diced
2 Serrano chiles, stems trimmed, sliced, seeded, flattened
1lb pork butt, cut into large chunks (original recipe called for rabbit)
3 lbs chicken thighs cut in half,skinned, and most of the fat removed (original recipe called for whole chicken cut up)
1 Tablespoon sea salt for seasoning, plus extra to taste
3 quarts Chicken Stock
2 Bay leaves
2 large celery stalks
2lbs potatoes peeled, rough diced
1 ½ cups carrots (about 5 small carrots), chopped
3 ½ cups onion (about 4 medium onions) chopped
2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 4 ears)
3 cups lima beans, preferably fresh (1 ¼ lbs) or defrosted frozen
1 35oz can whole, peeled tomatoes, drained
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 2 lemons
Tabasco sauce to taste

1-In the largest stockpot you have, preferably a 10-12 qt or even a Dutch Oven if you’re lucky enough to have one, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until it just starts to crisp. Transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Reserve most of the bacon fat in your pan, and with the pan on the burner, add in the chiles. Toast the chiles until they just start to smell good, or make your nose tingle, about a minute tops. Remove to bowl with the bacon.

2- Season liberally both sides of the rabbit (pork) and chicken pieces with sea salt and pepper. Place the rabbit pieces in the pot and sear off all sides possible. You just want to brown them, not cook them completely. Remove to bowl with bacon and chiles, add more bacon fat if needed, or olive oil, or other oil of your choice, then add in chicken pieces, again, browning all sides nicely. Remember not to crowd your pieces, especially if you have a narrow bottomed pot. Put the chicken in the bowl with the bacon, chiles and rabbit. Set it aside.

3- Add 2 cups of your chicken broth or stock, if you prefer, to the pan and basically deglaze the4 pan, making sure to get all the goodness cooked onto the bottom. The stock will become a nice rich dark color and start smelling good. Bring it up to a boil and let it boil away until reduced by at least half. Add your remaining stock, the bay leaves, celery, potatoes, chicken, rabbit, bacon, chiles and any liquid that may have gathered at the bottom of the bowl they were resting in. Bring the pot back up to a low boil/high simmer, over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover, remember to stir every 15 minutes, give or take, to thoroughly meld the flavors. Simmer, on low, for approximately 1 ½ hours. The stock may become a yellow tinge with pieces of chicken or rabbit floating up, the celery will be very limp, as will the chiles. Taste the stock, according to the recipe, it “should taste like the best chicken soup you’ve ever had”.

4- With a pair of tongs, remove the chicken and rabbit pieces to a colander over the bowl you used earlier. Be careful, as by this time, the meats will be very tender and may start falling apart. Remove the bay leaf, celery, chiles, bacon and discard. After you’ve allowed the meat to cool enough to handle, carefully remove all the meat from the bones, shredding it as you go. Return the meat to the pot, throwing away the bones. Add in your carrots, and stir gently, allowing it to come back to a slow simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 25 minutes, or until the carrots have started to soften.

5- Add in your onion, butterbeans, corn and tomatoes. Crush the tomato, then add them to the pot. Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring every so often until the stew has reduced slightly, and onions, corn and butterbeans are tender. Remove from heat and add in vinegar, lemon juice, stir to blend in well. Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce if desired.

6 You can either serve immediately or refrigerate for 24 hours, which makes the flavors meld more and makes the overall stew even better. Serve hot, either on its own, or with a side of corn bread, over steamed white rice, with any braised greens as a side.

*This also freezes well, just label and cook to boiling before serving.*

Gribenes (Chicken Skin; baked crisp)

Spread the chicken skins out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Salt, pepper and a dash of Chipotle powder. Bake at 250F for 2-3 hours until crispy.

Quote from Husband (who has eaten at Bullocks with me): "Yeah, uh huh, this is better than Bullocks." And that's why we're still married :D


Audax said...

I was wondering what Gribenes was baked chicken skin!!!! Love all your process photographs and I like the story about Bullocks. Lovely work on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Cowgirl Chef said...

You had me at chicken skins. My GAWD, this looks amazing, and I can't believe I've never heard of this. Is it just as good w/o the squirrel, I wonder?

Anonymous said...

Getting an insider's point of view is just one of the great things about being a Daring Cook. I did a chicken skin yakitori awhile back but your Gribenes sound way better.

Anonymous said...

I forgot this. That photo you posted in the forums had me drooling over your new stockpot. Nothing but good can come from a new toy like that.

Angelica said...

Aww, what a lucky husband to have a wife like you making great stew for him. Thanks for sharing the bullocks story and congrats on the challenge!

Jo said...

I'd bet that this challenge must have brought back good memories. Love your version of the stew and great pictures as well.

shelley c. said...

What a treat to read about someone with previous experience with this stew! It was new to so many of us that it is really great to hear of your experiences with it - both your familiarity with the stew and your experience making it for the first time. Glad the husband approved, LOL! :) Excellent job (and beautiful photos!!)

Wic said...

as always it looks delicious and as always its a pleasure to read your Daring cooks post.
love it.

Winnie said...

Your stew looks super and I can only imagine the garnish is great. Lovely post!

Wolf said...

I think I've actually seen that restraurant before.}:P

Great job! And now I have a recipe to use up all that chicken skin I have stashed in my freezer!

Khali//Bandit and the Scene Stealers said...

amazing! Sounds so freakin' good and looks the same. I love bullock's and I swear I could survive off their hush puppies and iced tea for the rest of my life...if i never ad to move or do any physical activity again. Great photos! always gets my belly rumbling.

Baked Alaska said...

Great story, and your stew looks really good.

Will C Jr. said...

I stumbled across your recipe post as I was searching for a good Brunswick Stew recipe. When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my family lived in Durham NC, and we used to eat at the original Bullocks - it was where I was introduced to this wonderful Southern delight. We also used to buy it from Bethany Methodist Church when they would have their annual Brunswick Stew sale, (yep, they used those giant cast iron pots!)
But anyway, I made this recipe a few days ago - wow! This is truly the closest thing I've ever found to what I consider the best - original Bullocks!
Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe - it has earned an honored place in my recipe folder.

Anonymous said...

I found this while, of all things, searching for Bullock's Brunswick Stew recipe. I am also originally from Durham and I used to frequent Bullock's a lot. I am now on the left coast and I miss the food for sure. I can only hope that this recipe is half as good as the nectar of the gods that Bullock's puts out :)

Thanks for putting this out there for all of us to try.