Brunswick Stew, April Daring Cooks
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.
This is basically a hunter’s style stew from Virginia and Georgia. So first things first, I went rabbit hunting. It was a great opportunity to spend some time outside in the fresh air with my Friend Kyle and my cousin’s son Cam.
We had the best intentions of being on the trails come sunrise. Well due to a forgotten 4 wheeler key, that didn’t happen. So in the end we only saw one rabbit and one Ptarmigan and didn’t get a shot at either. Still, all in all, it was a beautiful Spring day and I can’t wait to try again.
Lucky for me, my wonderful local butcher always has frozen bunnies in stock. Check out the Rabbit Cacciatore blog for a bit of information on how to butcher. I cut up the rabbit into legs, bellies, ribs, and loin.
The day before the stew was made I whipped up a slow simmered chicken stock. I used a whole organic chicken, carrots, onion, celery, garlic, bay, rosemary, thyme, and peppercorns. The chicken was slowly simmered for about an hour and then it was removed and cooled. When the meat was cool enough to handle, I picked all the meat from the chicken and put the bones back in the pot to continue simmering. After a few hours, cool, strain, and defat the stock.
First into the pot is some bacon lardons and then I went with 3 seeded and chopped serrano chiles. When the bacon has rendered most of its fat, pull out the bacon and chiles and reserve. I added a bit of olive oil to the pot and then started the process of browning the pieces of rabbit. It took doing it in batches so that the pot didn’t become overcrowded. Make sure to season both sides with salt and pepper. It smelled so good at this early stage that I promptly ate both of the belly pieces right out of the skillet. (cooks prerogative)
Pull out all the rabbit and set aside. Now into the same pot goes a diced red onion. Use this and a good flat edged wooden spoon to loosen as much of the pan fond as possible.
These were sweated for a few minutes and then the pot was deglazed with homemade chicken stock. It was about 3 cups and that was then reduced by about half. I then put the rabbit back in the pot along with the chiles and bacon. Add more stock to cover along with some bay leaves, thyme, and a bit of chopped sage. This was simmered slowly on the stove for about 90 minutes. I put a lid on but had it cocked open a bit.
After the 90 minutes, I pulled out the rabbit pieces to cool. Now I added in my celery, more onion, baby yellow potatoes, and carrots. These simmered while I picked the rabbit carcass. Then I added back the rabbit meat, the chicken meat from yesterday’s stock, frozen corn, frozen lima beans, and a small can of diced tomatoes. The stock was then seasoned with a very healthy dose of Tabasco and a bit of red wine vinegar.
From looking at several other Daring Cook’s posts, I decided on a drop dumpling. Mine were inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe. They were 3 cups of AP flour, 16 Tbsps cold butter, 1 1/2 Tbsps baking powder, salt, milk, and a bunch of fresh chopped tarragon.
Cut the butter into the dry ingredients and then bring the dough together with just a little bit of milk. It doesn’t take much. Do not overwork or knead the dough. Just bring it together and then use your hands to roll out into a couple of thick ropes. Cut the dough into about 18-20 equal pieces. Now roll the pieces into balls and set gently on top of the stew. Grate about 1/2 of a nutmeg over the top of the dumplings.
Now the whole pot goes into a pre-heated 375F oven uncovered. Leave them alone for about 35 minutes. I then pulled out and brushed the tops with melted butter. Allow to bake for another 10 minutes.
When they come out, the entire top has been sealed by the dumplings. The tops of the dumplings are also golden brown and have a crispy top. The whole kitchen at this point smells amazing. I of course had some immediately.
It is a very tasty and hearty stew, especially with the added dumplings. Parts of the original recipe had weird steps and certain things seemed out of order to me. I really wanted to deglaze with wine after browning the rabbit. One of those old recipes that has a long history and is done that way because that is always the way it has been done I guess.
I may or may not make this again in the future. I will however make the dumplings again. I will also definitely make the Rabbit Cacciatore that I discovered while researching this recipe over and over.
Be sure to check out the other Daring Cook’s take on this challenge.