Monday, October 31, 2016

OLD VIRGINIA BRUNSWICK STEW

Brunswick Stew was served at all of Virginia's tobacco-curing, sheep shearing, and other gatherings. The story goes that a hunting party in Brunswick County, well provisioned with tomatoes, onions, butter beans, okra, bacon, salt, and corn, left one man behind to have the dinner ready at the end of the day. He could only find a squirrel within range of the camp. So he shot it, cleaned it, and threw it into the pot with the vegetables. When it was served, all of the hunters agreed that squirrel was the finest and tenderest of all wild meats. Chicken is now substituted . . . and that a good thing! 
In 1775 my 5th great grandfather, Capt. David Chadwell appeared at the Colonial Capitol in the City of Williamsburg to testify against another man who stole his horse. I like to think that maybe that evening he dined at the one of the taverns and had Brunswick Stew. 

Lee's Kitchen Tips:
If you do not have or like okra, which also is a thickener, just spoon out 3 tablespoons of the melted butter-bacon grease mixture into a small bowl and add 2 tablespoons of flour to make a paste. Use this to thicken the stew before you add the boneless chicken pieces.


Chicken Stock
1 whole chicken (3 to 4 lbs) cut into pieces and most of the skin removed
1 quart chicken stock or broth
3 cups water

Stew
6 slices bacon, diced (preferably Virginia hickory smoked)
4 T unsalted butter
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 (14.5-oz) cans stewed tomatoes
2 cups frozen lima beans
2 cups frozen corn
3 large yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
½ cups chopped okra 
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 sprig thyme or 1 t dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 t Old Bay seasoning
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce, optional

In a large cast-iron stew pot or Dutch oven, add the chicken pieces, (including the back) chicken stock, and water.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered for 1 ½ hours.

Remove chicken with tongs or a slotted spoon and place in a bowl to cool. 
Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a large pitcher or measuring cup. You should have about 4 cups of broth.
Skim some of the fat from the top of the broth and discard.

In the same cast-iron stew pot or Dutch oven, fry the diced bacon until crisp, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
Add butter to the pot with the bacon fat and let melt.

Add the chopped onions to the butter mixture and sauté for 10 minutes.
Pour the strained chicken broth into the pot with the sautéed onions.

Add the stewed tomatoes, lima beans, corn, potatoes, okra, Worcestershire, thyme sprig, bay leaves, and Old Bay into the pot.
Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile remove the skin from the chicken and pull the chicken off the bones into bite size pieces and add to the pot. 
Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Simmer another 5 minutes, add the bacon bits and serve with cornbread muffins and hot sauce, if desired.

Serves 6