Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sweet As Pie: Brunswick Stew

You know you're busy when it's your month to pick recipes and you don't even cook those!

We are catching up, though -- slowly -- and first up is Brunswick Stew from September's recipes.

I've shared in the past how CAM and I are huge fans of Trisha Yearwood and her cooking show on Food Network, and the recipes we picked this month came straight from that show.

Jennifer sent out the request for recipes in August, and suggested we try to stick with football-ish/tailgating food for the September menu.  Although Brunswick Stew is definitely not something you can cook while you're tailgating, it's absolutely the kind of thing you can keep on a warmer, and, like chili, come back to all day long.  Mick and I are both self-declared connoisseurs of Brunswick Stew, and thus far Trisha's recipes have been good to us, so this seemed like a natural pick as we entered the glorious time of year known as Football Season.

Jack's Brunswick Stew

Verdict: Not bad!  It makes a lot, and it is a good stew, but it's missing something.
Cook it again:  Yes, but we will probably tinker a bit.
Cost factor:  It's Brunswick Stew, which means pounds of beef, pork, and chicken.  It's not inexpensive, but it makes a good bit.  I'd say $30-ish; but keep in mind that we doubled the recipe and used San Marzano tomatoes, which are costly on their own.

First of all, I have no idea on this earth why I made the decision to double the recipe.  That made an absolute ton of stew.  We have the biggest Dutch oven Le Creuset sells, and we filled it to the top.  Thank goodness we liked the stew!

Second of all, I took absolutely no photos of this.  So please forgive me.  For that error, I will make this post a bit less wordy.

As with most Brunswick stews, there is an abundance of meat.  This recipe called for pork, chicken, and beef.  We boiled those up and then shredded them.  The recipe suggested a food processor, but I actually put it all in the stand mixer with the paddle attachment and it shredded it perfectly -- as if I had pulled it with a fork.

If you're not familiar with Brunswick Stew, it's not really a chili, but that's probably the closest description to it.  There's a strong tomato base, and in this case we achieved that with canned whole san marzano tomatoes and some ketchup.  I have to say: the addition of the ketchup in this recipe really made the stew tangier than Mick and I prefer, so if I make this again I'd likely half the ketchup and fill the balance with tomato paste.

Another thing we didn't realize was that we actually essentially pureed the potatoes as a thickening agent.  What a cool trick!  It worked well.

The stew was good -- and we've had our occasional bad ones, so we don't say that lightly.  However, it was missing something.  Here's what we settled on:

1.  In the past, the best stews we've had have used smoked meats.  We think some of the undertones of flavor were missing here because the meats were boiled.

2.  There was also some crunch missing.  We think the stew needed more corn, but also we know that other recipes that call for lima beans and okra.  We didn't want to deal with okra, so we went with lima beans.  That helped -- but we used the large ones.  I think the smaller ones -- or butter beans -- would have been a better addition.

3.  Mick prefers his Brunswick Stew a bit spicier.  I don't; I don't want it to be like a chili.  So I thought the spice level was just right on this one, but Mick wanted it to have a little more kick.  I'd say that's a season-to-taste issue, and fixable, to an extent, with adding more black pepper when it's served.  Otherwise, throw in some more spice when you're cooking.

We liked this enough to eat it for four consecutive days ... but we still had gallons we were able to freeze!  That's good news, though, because Brunswick Stew is a big project, and having some available  "on demand" up here in Central Maine where people hear "Brunswick" and think "Naval Base," is not such a bad thing.  We're still on a quest for decent barbecue up here, and having a taste of it in our freezer is a comforting thought.

(Side Note: the idea of a Sonny's in Maine makes my heart stop for a moment every time I think of it.  Alas, the nearest Sonny's is a thousand miles away.  We've found a few mom-and-pops that try (and claim) to be authentic, but even the best local place can't touch Sonny's -- and it's a chain!  There's amaaaaazing local flavor all over the place down South that I won't even get into right now.  Point is, even chain bbq is better than what we've been able to find up here... so the idea of having some Stew in our freezer is a nice comfort!)

Would we make this again?  Yes, but we'd probably research some other recipes and add additional corn and beans and okra; we'd also like to try it again when we can smoke the meats.  But overall, for a relatively quick stew that you can cook entirely in your kitchen, this recipe was definitely a tasty success.


p.s.  I did a quick Google search of "brunswick stew," and came upon this post.  The photo is exactly what a good stew should look like.  I can't attest to the recipe, but check out the pic.

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