3:50 p.m. Well, Brian’s annual Super Bowl party may be a bit hard to reach this year on account of him graduating and becoming a professor in another state, but that doesn’t mean he needs to miss out on the “traditional” making of the Brunswick Stew.
I’m starting a little later than I planned on (our car broke down while house-hunting and we had to walk home carrying the necessary ingredients) but it only takes about four hours so we should be good for halftime.
- 1 whole ~3 lb chicken (I saved the internal organs to make stock another day, but they are fine in the stew)
- 8 oz. of some sort of ham (I went with a ham hock — the idea is to not just have chicken, especially since the stew is supposed to be made with squirrel)
- 4 large red potatoes (any will do, but we’re in North Carolina so red seems appropriate)
- 1 large onion
- 2-3 cans of diced tomatoes (we will add these to the Dutch oven as space permits, so they may not all get used)
- 1-2 cans of corn (creamed or regular is fine — I avoided creamed this year because MSG can be made using “modified food starch”)
- 1 can of Lima beans (I don’t like them either, but the point of the stew is that every component takes the flavors of the others, so that the beans end up tasting great and you wouldn’t want to throw off the flavor of the rest of the mix by omitting them)
3:58 pm Ann informs me that the Puppy Bowl is already rocking.
The first thing to go into the pot is 1 1/2 tsp salt, the chicken, and water to cover the chicken. In my 10″ dutch oven the chicken would not fit without being cut into large pieces. Don’t worry about craftsmanship, we’re cooking this baby until it disintegrates.
Incidentally, the blog Ladies… features several good Super Bowl Sunday recipes for the non-Dutch oven owning crowd.
4:12 pm So I probably took the charcoal out of the chimney too fast. I try to never grill without one, and you’re supposed to wait until the coals are completely ashed over, but I was excited. Now I’m trying to get them hot enough to bring the chicken to a boil.
I also have the first round of pictures, which I will insert where relevant as I go along (hopefully my interventions in the past won’t cause me not to exist).
4:17 pm I’m cooking in a fire pit in my back yard that I made using clay we dug up when we made our vegetable garden. A fire pit is not essential. Anywhere safe will work. We’ve used gravel driveways and the concrete parking lot of the physics department at Duke. Of course, that particular parking lot also served as the roof to the Triangle Universities Nuclear Lab, but no harm no foul…
4:22 pm The coals below are doing fine, but I’ve just put the above coals back into the chimney, added new lighter fluid, and relit. this time I wait until they are completely ashed over. The coals below are fine because the cast iron is trapping enough of the heat. The coals above aren’t doing so hot because the heat can escape. this is why you use twice as many coals on top as below in order to achieve uniform heating.
4:29 pm So what is a Dutch oven? Well, Sopranos aside, the Dutch oven is a heavy, cast iron pot with a lid that can be used to slowly and uniformly cook. The particular one I have is a camp stove, which means that it has three legs so that it can rest directly in a fire. Brian and I bought it for about $50 at R.E.I. many years ago in order to make Brunswick stew. I have a 10″ version which is good for the sporadic user. A 12″ might be nicer but, my spam to the contrary, bigger isn’t always better.
4:45 pm So the second round in the charcoal chimney worked (I placed it on top of the oven for a little extra heat). Now the coals are wicked hot and the long wait begins. It takes about two hours for the chicken to boil to the point that it’s falling off the bone. Now all I can do is wait, drink beer, and work on my notes for my mathematical physiology lecture on Wednesday. The beer is a marzen-style lager called Hole in the Rock. The lecture is on spatial models for cardiac electrophysiology. That was the topic of Ann’s dissertation, so I think I’m in good shape.
5:42 pm So the chicken has been boiling for a while now and I have been adding cold coals to the pile on the top of the dutch oven and working hot coals in beneath. I figure I may give the chicken up to another hour to cook. We’ll see.
There is absolutely nothing on tv. Unless you like rodeo or golfing. In that case there is rodeo and golfing on tv and you suck. (I know many people like to golf, but that’s very different from watching other people golf, much like the difference between undressing and watching people undress).
At least the weather’s been nice (look Brad, cloud waves!). You might say that it was a perfect day for walking home from the Mazda dealership. Certainly a great day for backyard cooking.
7:01 pm About a half hour ago I took the lid of to check the chicken (it’s good to keep a can of veggies to the side of the coals to rest the lid on). The meat was quite literally falling off the bone — the tongs I used to grab the chicken pieces initialy just tore shreds away. I put all the chicken in a bowl to take inside and left the cover off the broth so that it could reduce. In my kitchen I chunked up the potatoes (I like large pieces) and brought them out to boil in the broth.
Finally, I added the onion, the ham hock, and one can each of lima beans and diced tomatoes. The pot was overflowing but the coals were up to the challenge.
7:29 pm Wow, Brady sacked twice in a row. I just checked the veggies and the onions are still white but the smell is awesome. Some of the tomatoes were above the water and burned, but it was a small enough amount to add some roasted flavor without causing other problems (I hope). There’s still a lot of liquid in the container, so I probably can’t add another can of tomato if I’m going to get the chicken and corn in there. Time will tell.
8:00 pm The onions were clear and the liquid had reduced a little. Adding corn and chicken and pressing with a spoon got rid of some more. Then I added two tablespoons of hot sauce, two tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce (used Annie’s vegetarian brand because this is also a common place where MSG is used as a shortcut — unfortunately that means no anchovies), and in lieu of a half cup of barbecue sauce (again a common MSG source) I used some tomato paste and vinegar. Just twenty more minutes and we’re good to go.
8:26 pm We have achieved stew. I have eaten half my bowl already. It’s great — the lack of MSG allows the veggie flavors to carry through better. All of the components have the same (good) flavor and the different consistencies make it interesting.