Food, Thoughts

The Panicked Chef Makes: Brunswick Stew & Hopping John

Speaking of doing things you fear, Kurt & I had a small New Year’s get-together at the house on the 1st & I decided to cook.  (My past post about me & cooking here.) The menu was somewhat traditional including Brunswick Stew & Hopping John.  The Southern Living cookbook I have states that all sorts of places in the South argue that they were the origins of this tasty stew, but my Virginia Hospitality cookbook just won’t have that.  Brunswick County, VA is apparently the only place with a real claim.

Brunswick Stew

Listed below is a fast, easy recipe.

1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
2 potatoes, thinly sliced
10 3/4 oz can tomato soup
16 oz can stewed tomatoes
10 oz pkg. frozen corn
10 oz pkg frozen lima beans
3 tbsp onion flakes
salt & pepper to taste

Basically, I threw all the ingredients in slow cooker & cooked everything for 2 hours on high.  After my timer chimed, I let the stew cook for another 2 hours on low.  Since I had made this recipe before for friends, I felt inspired enough to throw in a few substitutions.  I used half of a real onion instead of flakes, mixed frozen veggies instead of just corn & limas, and as a secret ingredient, a bit of creole seasoning we had left over from our trip to Taylor, Mississippi.  I’ve never felt overtly Southern but the creole seasoning made me smile at the idea of myself in an antebellum dress.

I also made Hopping John, just to be traditional & to remember my grandma a bit.  (Although I didn’t put money up for the year.  I can hear her scolding me now.)  The picture didn’t turn out as well so just the recipe here:

8 slices slab bacon, cut into pieces
2 small onions, chopped
5 cups canned black-eyed peas, including juice
1 cup uncooked pork, cubed
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup rice, uncooked
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt to taste

First, one thing about trying to estimate cups from canned beans: the serving info on the label is not always correct.  I bought 2 cans of Giant branded peas which yielded 4 cups including juice.  The label promised 3 1/2 cups per can, which just was not so.  But considering I made a small batch just as a treat, the lesser amount wasn’t a big issue.  Kurt helped me figure out the adjusted proportions & we made it a one pot dish.  First, I sautéed the bacon & onions until the onions were tender.  After removing the bacon & onions from the pan, I cooked the pork in the dripping until it was browned.  Then I threw everything else in & cooked it over medium heat for 25 minutes.  Delicious!

In any case, the Panicked Chef made it through another meal relatively stress-free & actually able to improvise.  There might be something to this cooking thing after all.  I wish you many satisfying meals this year!


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