>Brunswick Stew (and my first Daring Cooks challenge)


The thing I have enjoyed most about this endeavor (blogging about food, that is) is venturing outside my comfort zone and trying new things.  As a way to challenge myself further in the kitchen and on the interweb, I signed up with The Daring Kitchen as both a Daring Cook and a Daring Baker.  I was too late to get in on last month’s Daring Baker’s challenge, so my first challenge happens to be this Daring Cook’s Brunswick Stew exploration.
Oddly enough, though I’ve grown up in the South, I’d never actually had Brunswick Stew before this challenge.  I had seen it on menus in barbecue joints all over the place, and I’d seen people eating it with gusto, but for some reason it never appealed to me.
So, this was an all new experience for me.  It was different from what I expected, but in a good way.  The recipe I chose to follow most closely actually yielded a rather light stew, which was a delightful surprise (I expected something thick and gloppy, based on the prototypes I’d seen over the years). 
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.
While both recipes looked interesting, the Lee Bros. version was the one I chose to model my stew after (although, as most often is the case, I didn’t follow it to the letter in ingredients or in technique).
First, I halved all the amounts.  What you see listed below in the ingredients are the full amounts.  She says this makes 10-12 servings, but I’d say it’s more than that.  I believe the half recipe that I made was at least 8 servings. 
Additionally, I used this pork in place of the rabbit, and I used this stock recipe in place of the one she mentions.  I used the chicken from making the stock as my chicken in the stew (so basically, all my meats except the bacon were pre-cooked).

1/4 lb / 113.88 grams / 4 oz slab bacon, rough diced
2 Serrano, Thai or other dried red chiles, stems trimmed, sliced, seeded, flattened
1lb / 455.52 grams / 16oz rabbit, quartered, skinned

1 4-5lb / 1822.08- 2277.6 grams / 64-80oz chicken, quartered, skinned, and most of the fat removed
1 Tablespoon / 14.235 grams / ½ oz sea salt for seasoning, plus extra to taste
2-3 quarts / 8-12 cups / 64.607-96.9oz Sunday Chicken Broth (recipe below)
2 Bay leaves
2 large celery stalks
2lbs / 911.04 grams / 32oz Yukon Gold potatoes, or other waxy type potatoes, peeled, rough diced
1 ½ cups / 344.88 grams / 12.114oz carrots (about 5 small carrots), chopped
3 ½ / 804.72 grams / 28.266oz cups onion (about 4 medium onions) chopped
2 cups / 459.84 grams / 16.152oz fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 4 ears)
3 cups / 689.76 grams / 24.228oz butterbeans, preferably fresh (1 ¼ lbs) or defrosted frozen
1 35oz can / 996.45 grams / 4 cups whole, peeled tomatoes, drained
¼ cup / 57.48 grams / 2.019 oz red wine vinegar
Juice of 2 lemons
Tabasco sauce to taste

I began by dicing the bacon and shredding the meat.  
In a large stockpot, I rendered the bacon of it’s fat and let it get good and crispy. 
I removed the seeds and veins from two serrano chillies.  
Once the bacon had given up it’s fatty goodness, I scooped it out and threw the serranos into the yummy hot fat.  I let the skins blister and get good and brown, and then removed those, too.
I diced up the onion, carrot and celery.
I threw those into the bacon grease and let them get good and soft and brown.  Once the mirepoix had cooked down a bit, I added a little of the stock to the pot to fully deglaze the pan.  Then I added the bacon and chillies back in, along with the bay leaf and stirred to combine.  I let it boil to reduce the liquid by half.
I added the meat and diced potatoes to the mix, along with the remaining stock and reduced the heat to a simmer.  This I allowed to sit and stew (pun definitely intended) for a couple of hours.  Toward the end of the cooking time, I added the tomatoes, butter/lima beans and corn.  I crushed the tomatoes in my hands, removing the tough stem end as I added them to the pot.  I let this cook slowly for another 30-45 minutes to make sure all the flavors came together.
I turned off the heat and added the red wine vinegar
and the lemon juice.  I also added salt and pepper to taste.
Now, to be honest, when I tasted the finished product, it was lacking something.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it just tasted a little flat.  I noticed that the second recipe called for tomato juice as part of the liquid.  I didn’t have any tomato juice, but I did have some tomato sauce in the fridge, so I threw in about half a cup right at the end.  Not only did it make the liquid look a little richer, it added a little more acidity to the mix, which I think it needed.  Additionally, the potatoes were cooked to the point of falling apart, so I took a little time and mashed most of them with the back of my wooden spoon.  This served to thicken the broth and make it a little more hearty.

Ultimately, I have to say it tasted a lot like vegetable soup with some (okay a lot of) meat thrown in.  I like vegetable soup. so this wasn’t the end of the world.  However, it was a lot of work for an end product that reminded me of something that I can make in about 1/4 the time.  

I’m glad I got this for my first Daring Cook’s challenge, though.  It was fairly easy, and at the same time it gave me an opportunity to try something I’d never done before.  Thanks Wolf!

4 thoughts on “>Brunswick Stew (and my first Daring Cooks challenge)

  1. >Welcome and hello to the Daring Cooks' and congratulations on your first successful challenge. I'm so glad that you finished it and even if you where a little disappointed with it, it does seem you enjoyed the whole process. Super effort and I hope you have a lot more happy experiences with us. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. >Welcome to the Daring Cooks' and congratulations on your first challenge! I am sorry you didn't enjoy the finished product more, but I have to say – your pictures look fantastic, and the stew looks nice and hearty! I can't wait to see what our next challenge will be!

  3. >Thanks for the warm welcome ladies! It's not that I didn't enjoy the end product, it just wasn't what I expected. That's part of being daring, though – you never know how something is going to turn out, right? I'm looking forward to more challenges in the future.Oh, and it was so much more flavorful on day two!

  4. >Niki,Your pics look great! It's interesting how so many people can take the same recipe and never have the same results. For example mine was really good on day 1 and way to salty on day 2!

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