Georgia Brunswick Stew

Georgia Brunswick Stew

Today marks the day that I institute some changes for my blog. Lately I have been very inspired to learn more about the history of Southern cuisine, which forms the basis of my food history and influence.

I cannot list one specific reason as to the inspiration, but a slew of events accumulated over the last few months that pushed me here. Getting an invite to the private screen of Netflix’s Chef’s Table episode on our local chef, Mashama Bailey, was the starting point.

Next came the discovery of the Southern Foodways Alliance (here is there website) which documents the history of southern cuisine. I quickly became a proud member.

Not long after I visited with my dad and my Uncle Dusty (who is Cajun) and naturally fell into conversations about food of each of their regions. It seems as though I always fall back on or lean towards making food that has roots in the south.

Finally, I have realized that as a food writer in Savannah, I should educated myself more on the food I am writing about as to bring my readers some knowledge of their region.

To implement this change, I am going to start with a dish that I ate all the time growing up. When you live in certain parts of Georgia, semi-rural, there are only so many restaurants available. Most are chain restaurants like Long Horns or McDonalds, so the legitimate food selection is scant at best.

Birthdays and certain holidays resulted in eating out at the ‘fancier’ restaurants or the local mom and pop restaurants that the entire family loved. On our short list of go-tos was Wallace Barbeque, a shack of a BBQ restaurant that serves pulled pork by the pound with a bowl of vinegar-based barbeque sauce on the side. It is loved so much by my family that anytime my Uncle Dusty visits Georgia from his home in Louisiana, Wallace Barbeque is his first stop.

Like any good Georgia barbeque restaurant, Brunswick stew is readily available on the menu. As a result I have eaten gallons and gallons of Brunswick stew in my lifetime.

Brunswick stew is a hunter’s stew which combines any meat that is available, sometimes even squirrel, with any vegetables that are locally available. The result is a bone sticking stock that is chock-full of sustenance.

It is also important to note that Brunswick stew recipes change by the region. Georgia’s versions is traditionally sweeter due to the use of a barbeque sauce poured in the stock. Virginia’s version just uses a tomato base.

A good point of reference for the difference in each region’s Brunswick stew is the Southern Floodway Alliance’s Community Cookbook. It lists a recipe for North Carolina Brunswick Stew. I could not find one for Georgia. Instead of using a sweet barbeque sauce like in my recipe below, the recipe calls for the combination of ketchup, vinegar, and sugar.

Regardless of the region, the modern Brunswick stew features two meats, pork and chicken. Gone are the days where most southerners used what they caught or what was readily available on the farm to cook. The surplus of local supermarkets has made placed cheap meat in every home.

The recipe below is merely a starting point. I based my recipe on the countless bowls of Brunswick stew I ate growing up. You can switch out the vegetables, lookup versions from other regions or just throw in anything that suits the moment.

A big pot of hearty brunswick stew and slices of bread

Georgia Brunswick Stew

On overhead view of the big pot of stew and bowls

Ingredients

  • 1 Pound of Smoked Pork Shoulder
  • 4 Boneless and Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 16oz Bag of Frozen Lima Beans
  • 2 32oz Boxes of Chicken Stock
  • 1 Sweet Onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 14oz Cans of Stewed Tomatoes
  • 2 14oz Cans of Creamed Corn
  • 3 Medium Russet Potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 Cup of Sweet Barbeque Sauce, or more to taste
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste

Instructions

  1. I start this recipe by saying that everything is to taste. Add more barbeque sauce at the end if you preferer a sweeter more pungent barbeque flavor. As for the chicken stock, I start with one box then add more towards the end of the recipe to get the stock thickness I desire.
  2. Place a heavy bottom soup pot or a Dutch over over medium heat, and pour in one tablespoon of olive oil. Sautee the onion until caramelized and translucent.
  3. Place in your chicken thighs, then pour over enough chicken stock to cover the chicken.
  4. Bring the chicken stock up to a boil, then reduce the heat down to medium-low. Cover the pot with a lid and cook the chicken thighs for 30 minutes.
  5. After the chicken has cooked, pour in your remaining ingredients. Turn up the heat as long as necessary to bring the stew back up to a simmer. Once at a simmer you can reduce the heat back to medium-low.
  6. Add as much chicken stock as necessary to get the stew to your desired thickness.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste.
  8. I cook the stew for at least one hour to allow the potatoes to soften. The longer you allow it to cook the better it gets.
  9. Serve with sliced white bread or cornbread.
  10. *For an even easier version, combine all of the ingredients into a crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours.
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If you do not feel like making stew at home, here is my recommendation on a good local bbq spot.

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Review: Lili’s Restaurant and Bar

Review: Lili’s Restaurant and Bar

It’s not very often that French, South Asian, and Southern, all of which have very different base flavor profiles, are melded together, and it’s even more rare that it’s done so harmoniously.

However, Chef Mir Ali, the brains behind Lili’s Restaurant and Bar on Wilmington Island, believed that such a combination was possible. Lili’s was brought to Johnny Mercer Boulevard on Wilmington Island in 2014, and, since its inception, Chef Mir has not taken his foot off of the pedal of flavor-forward dining.

According to Chef Mir, the true hero in this story is his wife, Azi, who three years ago “gave me the courage to take the next step.” The restaurant is named after their daughter Lili, who lives in France.

But what makes Lili’s special besides such inspiration? Savannahians are famously difficult to persuade to try new food; it may or may not be the Southern in them. To be fair, it’s hard to beat really good fried chicken with all the fixin’s.

However, Lili’s menu offers something for everyone; those less adventurous can come in for a salad or fried shrimp and leave having experienced something new like tandoori spices or naan bread.

Though some spices and dishes may seem a bit exotic for the meat-and-three eater, Chef’s layers of comfort and warmth through piquancies are familiar to every Southerner’s palate.

Chef Mir shared a good many of his adventurous dishes, and not a single dish disappointed. Let’s start with the salad.

The appearance of the Citrus Berry Salad is awe inspiring. It arrives at your table sprinkled with a rainbow of seasonal berries, edamame, oranges, and feta. In stark contrast, a house-made, deep, dark, and thick reduced balsamic vinegar dressing adornes the side of the plate, adding sweetness as a beautiful foil to the feta.

The salad has everything you could want: plump tangy berries, salty, smooth feta, umami-filled edamame, and a coating of powerful balsamic dressing that finishes with a bit of sweetness to tame it all. Each element works together, but each stands on its own as a delectable accoutrement.

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The Crab Cakes are an absolute must and a perfect interlude to marry traditional Southern food with flavors that are a bit more adventurous.  It is at this point that I must confess: I do not like crab cakes, and, in the few short years I have spent on this earth, I have yet to find one that I love. That has changed, and West Indian curry is to thank.

The dish is served as a sandwich at lunch on a brioche bun, and it stands as a perfect appetizer for dinner, both served with a fresh and creamy lemon aioli. The two succulent mounds of flavor are seared on each side giving them a thin but crisp crust.

The addition of curry, red peppers, and onions highlight the buttery crab and shrimp without overpowering their delicate flavor. The center of each cake is not only filled with bits of exquisitely cooked meat but also creamy, contrasting the paste-like texture of some crab cakes.

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Chef Mir attributes the addition of eggs, which allows each cake to rise like a souffle, to what I would call the impeccable texture of his crab cakes.

Next were Chef Mir’s lamb chops. The Lamb Chop entree arrives at your table glistening with herbs and garlic, each one sitting atop a heap of wilted spinach. Upon the first bite, your tongue is coated in the luscious flavor of rendered fat, then the full flavor of tender lamb hits your palate.

Like the crab cakes, the chops are seared with love and given a beautiful crust. The lamb is cooked with precision allowing them to be delicate yet juicy in the center.

Chef’s techniques are shown in the impressive “Frenching” of the chops, allowing the diner to pick them up by the bone and eat them with their hands, which is how the dish is intended to be eaten. According to Katherine Alt, lead server, this dish is “Chef’s favorite.”

In addition to bold seasoning and technique, Chef Mir puts sustainability at the top of his list when creating a menu item. Take for example the Seafood Stew, which Katherine told me “showcases [Chef Mir’s] personality” while describing the dish.

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Short of the kitchen sink, this fare has everything you could want and more, since one or two types of seafood is apparently not enough for one dish. Shrimp, red crab claws, calamari, and salmon all make an appearance atop a bed of al dente basmati rice, which allows the stew to invade all the nooks and crannies of the rice.

Why red crab in lieu of Savannah’s traditional use of blue crab? Chef Mir explains he uses the Atlantic Red Crab Claws as they “are more sustainable than blue crab…because their claws grow back.”

Coconut milk and cream contribute a sweet and velvety counterpoint to the spicy curry powder and delicate saffron packed into the sauce.  Between the flaky salmon and deep flavored stew, this potion is sure to warm your belly.

Always striving for creativity, Lili’s hosts a unique seated dinner three to four times a year. Most recently the restaurant hosted a “Wild Night in January” with a menu that featured unique proteins with wine pairings.

Find the original Connect article here