Cooking Spree: Brunswick Stew

Hello, world! It’s been busy days here at Constitution Lane, so I’m sorry I had to drop off for a bit. You’ll be glad to know that I followed through last weekend on a cooking spree and made Brunswick Stew. (Suffice it to say that I cook when I’m stressed.) The stew is pretty delicious, and it’s the perfect meal for chilly, early fall in the South.

I love a stew, since like soup you just throw a mess of ingredients in a pot, cook it for a couple of hours and, voila!, you have a thick, rich meal to warm up your insides. The other good thing about a stew is that it is entirely manipulatable – you can get creative or just throw every leftover in your kitchen into it, and it will be wonderful.

Brunswick Stew comes in many forms, with chicken and pork being the most popular meat additions. But, you can add ground beef, diced pork chops, stew meat, whatever you fancy. Some recipes include squirrel meat or venison … hmm.

I did a bit of recycling this time with a leftover rotisserie chicken and some slow-cooked pork I’d frozen (see note at the bottom of the recipe). But if you want to be a purist, I’ve included my recipe below, and you could follow it to the letter. The most important thing is to simmer it to death, so it cooks down into a thick stew. Otherwise, you’ll just have vegetable soup. But that’s fine too. Enjoy!

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Brunswick Stew 

1 large onion, chopped
1-2 cups sliced okra (fresh or frozen)
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 qt chicken stock
3-4 lbs cooked pork, chicken, beef of your choice**
2 cups frozen corn
2 cups frozen lima beans (or green peas)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
3 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 bay leaves
water, as needed

In a large pot, sauté the onion until just translucent, about 3 minutes. Add okra and sauté another 3-4 minutes until it starts to soften and gets a little slimy (sorry). [Don’t worry, the okra will completely dissolve and thicken the stew – you won’t even know it’s there.]

Add tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir in the chopped meat, vegetables, garlic, barbecue sauce, worcestershire and ketchup. Add bay leaves. Stir everything together until well mixed. Add water to cover the meat and vegetables if there isn’t enough liquid. Partially cover the pot and cook at a low simmer for 2-3 hours, stirring often, until it reaches the consistency you like. Add more water along the way or remove the lid if you need to.

Serve over steamed rice and/or with cornbread.

**Cook’s note: I had a leftover rotisserie chicken with most of the meat still on. I pulled off all of the chicken and set it aside. Then I removed and discarded all of the skin and icky bits, and put the bones in a pot. I covered them with water, added some salt and pepper and boiled for 30-45 minutes to make stock, which I used in the stew. Then I chopped all of the chicken into small pieces and added it to the stew pot. I also used a pound or two of shredded pork that I slow cooked awhile back in a homemade barbecue sauce.

You could use ground beef, turkey, pork or chicken – just brown and drain it before you add it into the pot. If you’re using cooked chicken or pork, just chop it into a small dice first, and it will cook down and fall apart in the stew. (Hey, maybe this is a good way to use up Thanksgiving turkey! Note to self.)

Beware, this does feed a crowd. It makes so many leftovers that I’ve fed myself and several relatives for the last week!

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