Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Daring to do it: Brunswick Stew

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.

After completing the risotto challenge last month, I couldn't wait to find out what the next Daring Cooks' challenge would be. When I saw the posting saying Brunswick Stew, I was stumped. I had never heard of it before. But I know to expect that from the Daring Kitchen. Once I read more about it, though, I was concerned. Brunswick Stew is very much a hunter's dish. It is intended as a way to use fresh game. In a Kosher household, game meats like rabbit and squirrel are not on the menu. And in a vegetarian house? Forget it. At first I was thinking that I was going to have to sit this one out. But I then decided to see what I could do to in making my own version of this challenge.
Wolf, our host, had said that vegetarians were welcome to simply omit the meat. While I was going to have to do that, I knew I wanted to use something as a substitute. I thought about tofu, but wasn't sure the texture would be quite right. That's when I remembered: seitan! This challenge was the reason why Imade the seitan a little while back. I knew it would give a gamey, meaty texture and would absorb the flavors from the stock and veggies nicely. I also added texturized vegetable protien. The recipe called for two meats; I couldn't do that for real, so I faked it! I think it worked out ok...!

The other changes I made (well, the other intentional changes that is!!) had to do with the beans. I didn't know what butter beans were, and I couldn't find them. Then I found out that they are essentially Lima beans. Which Hubby doesn't like. So I stopped looking for them! I decided to use two other types of "beans" which would maintain the Southern flair of the dish. I used black eyed peas and split peas.

Once the ingredients were settled, the stew came together pretty much the way any stew comes together. I decided to use my slow cooker because, hey, I love using my slow cooker! In went the assorted veggies: Yukon gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, celery, onions and dried chilis. I next sauteed the seitan, and while the pan was hot I carmalized the tomato paste. This is something I had never done before, but Auntie Twin told me about it, and I thought it would be a good way to add depth of flavor to a vegetarian version of a meaty dish. Finally it was time to add the two kinds of peas, canned tomatoes and vegetable stock. I think I might have filled the slow cooker a little more than I was supposed to... Oops...! Oh well. On with the lid and time for the stew to simmer.

I knew that I wanted to make something to go with the stew. I had thought of making corn bread, but then decided to do something which just seemed more appropriate - cornmeal dumplings. I found a recipe on-line (though I don't remember where... If I figure it out I will add it in!) and added them to the slow cooker for the last hour of cook time.

One of the trademarks of Brunswick Stew is how thick it is. There is so much in it that, done right, the spoon is supposed to stand up straight in the pot! Well, I was worried that the vegetarion version wouldn't quite work out the same, but it did, and I got my obligatory picture of the spoon:

I realized only after the fact that there were a few things I forgot in my final product. I had bought frozen corn to include, but it is still in my freezer... I also forgot to add the lemon juice and vinegar at the end. Yeah... Absentmindedness was the word...
The end result was pretty good. Both Hubby and I agreed that it wasn't so different from other stews I have made in the past. We really liked the dumplings...! So while this was a fun challenge, I think it might have lost some of its specialness in the vegetarian conversion. I would absolutely recommend the recipe to meat eaters - adventurous meat eaters especially, andCheck Spelling hunters for sure!! So thank you, Wolf, for introducing me to a new idea, and I appreciate getting to broaden my Northeastern raised horizons!
And, because I know you were worried, Little Girl was not left out. While she couldn't have the stew as we ate it, I did make her a "Baby Brunswick" with the veggies and dumplings simmered in water. She seemed to like it!!
If you're interested, take a look to see what my fellow Daring Cooks did, too!


  1. You are very clever to fry the tomato paste that really does add a lot of deep flavour. And you are the 2nd posting I have seen with seitan (I must find out about it) and your dumplings look superb!!! And your photo are special and I'm very impressed with your effort on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  2. I found the same, that the stew probably lost some of it's flair from being converted to a vegetarian or vegan version. It was pretty tasty, though! And seitan is a great idea for a meat substitute!

  3. Great job! I'm glad that many of the vegetarians in the Daring Kitchen chose to try this Challenge anyway.}:P There are so many different versions and that's just great to see!

  4. I also used seitan in my Brunswick stew, but mine wasn't totally vegetarian (used some shrimp & shrimp stock in it). How did you like the seitan in this recipe? I thought it did a great job of taking on the flavours of the stew, and stewing it for so long prevented it from getting too rubbery. :)

  5. Until today I had never heard of seitan, I even looked it up :) Sounds like it's a great substitute for meat! You did a great job working with what you knew for this challenge, kudos!!

  6. Way to go for a creative veggie version. Never give up a challenge because of meat....there is always an alternative. Dumplings are a great idea too.

  7. Your stew looks great! Love the spoon picture ;-)

  8. Love the addition of cornmeal dumplings, sweet potatoes, and caramelized tomato paste - fabulous job!

  9. Your veggie version sounds spot-on. The cornbread dumplings also look like a tasty way to go. I'll have to keep that in mind for the future.