Welcome to Day 2 of Winter Stew Week! On Monday we had beef, today we’re having chicken, brought to you in the form of that American Deep South classic, Brunswick Stew. I had never heard of this stew until a few years ago. And when I did hear of it, I assumed it was from New Jersey. Oops. While some Deep South culinary traditions have migrated over to Texas, this is one that most definitely did not.
Apparently both Virginia and Georgia lay claims to its origins, and there’s a big rivalry between the two states about who makes the best version of the same stew. There are cook-offs and contests and trash talk and the whole bit. Based on my research, the only difference I could find is that the Virginia version uses chicken and rabbit, while the Georgia version favors pork and beef.
What everyone can agree on is that Brunswick stew is a tomato based meaty stew with various veggies floating around in there, notably corn and lima beans. Sometimes potatoes are used for thickeners, other times okra. And apparently, back in the day, everyone used squirrel meat, almost exclusively. Fortunately, squirrel meat has gone quite out of fashion, so no need to shudder when you run across a Brunswick stew recipe these days.
I found an easy version on Tasting Table and we both quite enjoyed it. It’s thick, warm, meaty and satisfying, with tons of bold flavor. I think this version may have sort of combined the Virginian and Georgian traditions, because it includes chicken, but no rabbit, and lots of bacon – perhaps as a nod to Georgia’s pork? I’m not sure, I just know it was delicious. I also read in my research that it’s customary to serve this stew with buttermilk biscuits on the side. Yes please! Definitely keeping that custom. Try it! Warm up in this winter cold! And check back tomorrow for some seafood in stew form.
Source: slightly adapted from Tasting Table
1 (12 oz.) package of thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
8 tbs unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¾ cup barbecue sauce
1 rotisserie chicken, meat removed from the bones and shredded, skin and bones discarded
½ cup crushed canned tomatoes
1 (10 oz.) package frozen corn kernels
1 (10 oz.) package frozen lima beans
3 cups chicken stock
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven set over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Pour most of the bacon fat out of the pot (save it if you want) and set the pot back over medium heat. Melt the butter into the pot. Once it’s melted, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 15 minutes. In the last minute of cooking add the garlic.
Stir in the Worcestershire, salt, pepper and cayenne. Simmer 5 minutes until the onions are glossy. Add the barbecue sauce, the shredded chicken and the crisped bacon. Stir to combine. Stir in the tomatoes, corn, and lima beans. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the stew for 20 minutes. Ladle in to bowls and serve with buttermilk biscuits on the side.