Rabbit-Free Brunswick Stew
Sorry, I needed to clarify that before proceeding.
Okay, the GIF. Wrong Stew-ie, but I love that little, animated guy. What other evil baby’s cheeks could you pinch while he devises a plan for a trebuchet that launches machetes directly at Lois?
This brings us to this month’s Daring Cooks challenge..the ‘STEW’ in the STEWIE, Brunswick stew! I love stew; all kinds of stew, all kinds of meats in stews, but not wabbit (yes, I meant to type ‘wabbit’). The thing is, Brunswick stew is sometimes known for being bunnylicious. Granted, there are all kinds of meats you can use in this stew, from chicken to pork to turkey, some with bunny, some without, but in my stew, no bunny, thank you. Never tried rabbit, do not want to try rabbit, and will never ever try rabbit.*
Maybe it’s the fluffiness or quivering nose, or maybe it’s the fact that I used to have guinea pigs (not in the same family, but sort of similar, right?) guinea pigs that had cute, little fluff ball babies. I don’t know the reason for sure, but they’re so soft and poofy that I don’t see them as something that needs to be basted with my gastric juices or something that will make me burp. They’re adorable pets to me, not food.
I know, my ‘chef meter’ just bottomed out.
The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.
Brunswick stew is a super thick stew with a colorful, sometimes debated, history, loaded with meat(s), rich stock, veggies and I suppose whatever suits your taste in terms of spices, heat, and a little something acidic to cut the richness. According to definition, this stew is supposed to be thick enough that ‘the paddle stands up in the middle’. This stew is also categorized as sometimes using beef. In other words, it really seems to stress bunny, pork, and/or chicken, and even squirrel in some parts.
Well, since my squirrel slingshot is broken**, I decided to go with the least authentic or expected Brunswick stew meat, the one with the label of sometimes prefacing it; the low meat on the Brunswick totem pole; Beef. However, not just any cut of beef; short ribs, a marbled cut on the bone that morphs into amazing bites of succulent and tender heaven when slowly braised.
I started by cutting the meat from the bone into bite sized chunks, then using the short rib bones, first roasted under the broiler, then simmered with vegetables and herbs to make a beautiful, rich, 8 to 12-hour long simmered beef bone stock. I omitted the beans from the recipe, and added parsnips, a mix of mushrooms like cremini and beefy portobellos, and some fresh herbs like thyme and parsley. I also used cut up grape tomatoes in lieu of the larger whole tomatoes (less liquid = an overly chunky stewie) and kept some of the corn on the cob, sliced into disks. The latter was mostly for presentation because, well, unless you eat cob (or like to crack your teeth or break your jaw), it’s pretty impossible to stick a fork in it, and the small round makes for difficult cob cleaning nibbles. It is possible, albeit awkward!
What led me to this idea was memories of this amazing Sancocho ‘stew’ we used to get in the South Bronx, with corn on the cob, sazon seasoning and sofrito. I need to get me some of that soon!
Anyway, they kept the corn on the cob larger than disks. What was I thinking? DISKS??
Do NOT make my mistake, which you see in the photos. Cut all the corn OFF the cob, or do NOT cut the corn on the cob into disks! Cut it larger than a disk!!
I found these retro 70’s looking things (uhh, ashtrays?) in a box in my parent’s attic. Probably not the best or prettiest choice to photograph and serve this stew in. A What was I thinking? MOMENT.
The final touch to the stew was homemade BBQ sauce. No idea why, but I just felt it needed a little BBQ sauce stirred in. The stew turned out absolutely delicious, the short rib meat melt-in-your-mouth tender, the vegetables sweet and succulent, and yes, a paddle, well, a fork, stood up in the middle of it. Was my take on Brunswick stew really Brunswick stew? Would I be turned away from Brunswick stew competitions if I tried to enter? Would mountain folk throw rabbit feet at me? Probably. Regardless, I will be making this again, tonight in fact, due to several requests for more.
BBQ Beef Rib Brunswick Stew
For the ‘bunnylicious’ or other meat(s) recipes for Brunswick Stew, click HERE. Oh, and don’t forget to drizzle and stir your favorite BBQ sauce into my version of the stew! It really amps it up! If you want to make it from scratch, you can try THIS ONE on my site.
* Yes, I think cows, pigs and chickens are cute too, but I don’t often see them bouncing through my yard or hanging out in pet shops. In fact, whenever I encounter and pet cows, pigs or chickens, I can’t eat them until the memory subsides, which sometimes lasts months!
** Just a joke, I do not own a squirrel slingshot, nor do I kill or eat squirrel. There’s always that one person who might take me seriously.
- Bones from 5 lbs short ribs (after you cut the meat off, obviously lol)
- 1 large parsnips, cut into chunks
- 1 large carrot, cut into chunks
- 1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 large stalk of celery, cut into chunks
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- a few whole sprigs of thyme and parsley
- ¼ lb slab bacon, rough diced
- 2 Serrano, Thai or other dried red chiles, stems trimmed, sliced, seeded, flattened
- All the raw beef chunks cut off the short ribs
- 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt for seasoning, plus extra to taste
- 2-3 quarts beef short rib stock (recipe below)
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 large celery stalks
- 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, or other waxy type potatoes, peeled, rough diced
- ¾ cup carrots (about 3 small carrots), peeeled and chopped
- ¾ cup parsnips (about 3) peeled and chopped
- 3½ cups onion (about 4 medium onions) peeled and chopped
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels, cut from the cob (about 4 ears)
- 3 cups chopped mixed mushrooms (your favorites)
- 4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half, or just roughly chopped
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Tabasco sauce to taste, if desired
- BBQ sauce to drizzle
- Cut all the meat off the short ribs, then cut the meat into chunks, and set aside in a bowl, covered in the fridge, until ready to make the stew.
- Arrange the short rib bones on a shallow baking sheet and rub both sides with oil, then lightly season both sides with kosher or sea salt and black pepper. Make sure they're in a single layer, none overlapping (as best you can. If it's not possible, do it in batches.) Place under a preheated broiler and cook about 6 to 8 minutes, Turn each bone over and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes, until brown. Place the bones on a platter or in a bowl and pour some water into the hot baking sheet to deglaze it, scraping up all the meat scraps, fond and juices. Set aside.
- In a large stock pot, drizzle some oil at the bottom and bring it to a sizzle. Throw in all the vegetables. Cook until all the vegetables brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add all the browned short rib bones on top of the browned vegetables and pour in cold water until just covered. Pour all the scraped up scraps and fond from the baking sheet on top of the ribs, vegetables and water. Now add more water until the bones are completely covered. Add in the bay leaves and a few sprigs of thyme and parsley, and about a tablespoon of whole black peppercorns. Stir in the tablespoon of tomato paste. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. When it boils, turn down the heat to low and let simmer for 4 to 8 hours, 12 at the most (if you have the time) for a really flavorful rich stock!
- Place a large strainer over a large bowl or pot and very slowly all the stock with the vegetables, bay leaves and herbs, into it. Pouring it slowly keeps it more clear for some reason. When you pour it in fast, it results in some foam. Once you strain all the bones, meat bits, vegetables, bay leaves and herbs from the stock, discard them. Leave the stock alone for about a half hour to let all the impurities settle at the bottom. Strain it a second time through a fine mesh strainer. over another large pot or bowl. Pour very slowly as you do not want the impurities on the bottom to get into the strained stock. Dump the impurities at the bottom into the trash.
- Let the stock cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight to let the fat rise to the top and solidify so you can spoon/pull it off easily. The stock will be gelatinous. Warm it gently to loosen it up before adding to the stew.
- You should have about 4 quarts of stock. You will need 2 to 3 quarts for the stew, so freeze the leftover quart or 2 of stock for later use in something else.
- In the largest stockpot you have, 10-12 quart or even a Dutch Oven, fry the bacon over medium-high heat until it just starts to crisp. Transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Reserve most of the bacon fat in your pan, and with the pan on the burner, add in the chiles. Toast the chiles until they just start to smell good, or make your nose tingle, about a minute tops. Remove to bowl with the bacon.
- Season liberally both sides of the short rib chunks with sea salt and pepper. Place the beef in the pot, a little at a time as not to crowd the pan because you don't want to steam them, you want to sear off all sides of the beef (you just want to brown them, not cook them completely.) Remove the beef chunks to the bowl with bacon and chiles. Set aside.
- Add 2 cups of your short rib (beef) stock to the pan to deglaze it, making sure to get all the delicious, brown goodness that cooked onto the bottom of the pan (the fond) scraped up. The stock will become a nice rich dark color and start smelling good. Bring it up to a boil and let it boil away until reduced by at least half. Add your remaining stock, the bay leaves, celery, bacon, chiles and any liquid that may have gathered at the bottom of the bowl they were resting in. Bring the pot back up to a low boil/high simmer, over medium/high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover, remember to stir every 15 minutes, give or take, to thoroughly meld the flavors. Simmer, on low, for approximately 1 ½ tto 2 hours. The celery will be very limp, as will the chiles. Taste the stock. It should taste like the best beef soup you’ve ever had!
- With a pair of tongs, remove the short rib chunks to a colander over the bowl you used earlier. Be careful, as by this time, the beef will be very tender and may start to fall apart.
- Remove the bay leaf, celery, chiles, bacon with a slotted spoon, and discard.
- Return the meat to the pot. Add in your carrots, parsnips and potatoes, and stir gently, allowing the stew to come back to a slow simmer. Simmer gently, uncovered, for at least 25 minutes, or until the carrots, potatoes and parsnips have started to soften.
- Add in your onion, mushrooms, corn and tomatoes. As you add the tomatoes, crush them up; be careful not to squirt juice straight up into the air, which would require the cleaning of the entire stove top! Simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring every so often until the stew has reduced slightly, and the onions, mushrooms, and corn are tender. Remove from heat and add in the vinegar and lemon juice. Stir to blend in well. Season to taste with sea salt, pepper, and Tabasco sauce if desired.
- You can either serve immediately or refrigerate for 24 hours, which makes the flavors meld more and makes the overall stew even better. Serve hot with a drizzle on the top of each bowl of stew of homemade (or your favorite sore-bought) BBQ sauce, stirring some of it into the stew.