I had little or no exposure to Brunswick stew before I met my husband, which is a bit surprising considering that it is a Southern specialty and I’m a Southern gal. But I think this stew is more common in barbecue country because it is traditionally served as a side dish with barbecue, and Roanoke and the Alleghany Highlands really aren’t “barbecue country,” in my mind.
Most folks suspect the hearty concoction was invented in Brunswick County, Virginia and named for that place. Down near the border of North Carolina – now that’s probably closer to barbecue country. It was invented by hunters who traditionally used rabbit, squirrel or chicken in the mix.
My husband just loves Brunswick stew, so I thought I’d try to make a pot of it for the first time last night. I chose a recipe from “Joy of Cooking: All About Soups & Stews.” My only complaint with this recipe is that it called for waaaaaay too much chicken. Even bone-in, five pounds of chicken is too much. I also chose to pull the meat off the bone near the end of the cooking process. I’d just rather have tender chunks of chicken in my stew than have to cut it away from the bone in my bowl.
So, you might say I stuck with tradition and made this with bone-in chicken and barbecued pork, but broke from tradition by removing the bones before serving. I also left out the lima beans (gasp! I know, not traditional) because I didn’t want to see the sad little pile of them that hubby would no doubt collect in one corner of his bowl. I added some Great Northerns instead because I would have at least missed the texture.
Let me know what you think if you try this recipe. And also let me know if you think you’ve got a better one, because I’m not wedded to this one.
Serves 6 to 8 (armies, that is. Not people)
5 pounds chicken parts, seasoned to taste with salt and pepper (and about 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, if desired)
2 Tbsp. bacon fat or vegetable oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
3 cups lima beans, fresh or frozen
2 cups barbecued pork or smoked ham, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (optional)
1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped, seeded peeled tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 cup barbecue sauce
1 cup tomato puree
1 cup chicken stock or water
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (optional)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Ground red pepper to taste
3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
Several drops Worcestershire sauce
Several drops of hot red pepper sauce
1. Heat oil or bacon fat in a heavy, large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.
2. Add chicken pieces in small batches and brown on all sides. Remove to a plate as they are done. Remove all but 2 Tbsp. of the fat from the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and add onions and celery.
3. Cook vegetables 5-7 minutes or until tender. Return chicken parts to the pan with any accumulated juices. Add lima beans, pork or ham (if using), tomatoes, barbecue sauce, tomato puree, stock or water, garlic (if using), bay leaves and salt, pepper and red pepper to taste. Bring stew to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and simmer gently until the chicken is nearly tender, 35 to 45 minutes.
Note: This is the stage at which I pulled out the chicken parts and removed the meat from the bone, then added the meat back in to the stew. – LN
4. Add corn kernels. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 more minutes. Skim any fat from the gravy with a spoon. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Add Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. If desired, serve topped with minced fresh parsley and toasted fresh breadcrumbs.
Source: “Joy of Cooking: All About Soups and Stews” by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker.