This past week has been a little challenging from a cooking standpoint…I know some of you might be wondering what I’m talking about since I cook almost every day for my family. After one of my sons had four wisdom teeth removed a week ago, let’s just say that the recovery was slower than we hoped for. At first, the challenge was trying to get my son to eat enough so he could take the pain medication. With swollen chipmunk cheeks and difficulty chewing, he ate only yogurt and pudding for the first day, after which he declared he could not eat any more and wanted some “real” food.
So, for the past week, our entire family has been on a soft food diet at dinnertime simply because I wanted to make one meal, not two every day. The challenge was coming up with foods that were soft, but tasted good, and looked good, which can be a bit tricky, especially with savory foods. Steamed egg pudding, congee, carrot and coriander soup, chicken velvet corn soup, chocolate “mousse” and lots of smoothies (including a Green Smoothie to get some green vegetables into my son’s diet) were good sources of nourishment for the first several days. Eventually, we graduated to lentil chili, stir-fry fish filet, sauteed spinach, and the Brunswick Chicken Stew that I am posting about today.
Brunswick Stew is a traditional American Southern dish, although different variations exist throughout the South. It is usually a tomato based stew containing some type of meat (rabbit, chicken, beef, pork or squirrel), lima beans, corn, okra and other vegetables.
When I first spotted this Brunswick Chicken Stew recipe by Edna Lewis, I thought it would be perfect as a dinner idea since the chicken would be nice and tender. However, given my son’s slower than expected recovery, it didn’t make it to our dinner menu until a few days ago. Served over quinoa pilaf, this rather rustic dish was filling, nutritious, and more flavorful than I expected. The dark meat was tender enough (cut into small pieces), as were the lima beans and corn, so that my son could have a “real” meal, and the rest of us could too.
Today, a group of bloggers are celebrating Edna Lewis, one of the Top 50 Women Game Changers In Food. I had never heard of Edna Lewis before this week, perhaps due to her soft-spoken and quiet demeanor. Edna Lewis, the granddaughter of a former slave, has been described as another “Judith Jones protégée, who brought sophisticated Southern dishes into the spotlight.” According to the New York Times, she “revived the nearly forgotten genre of refined Southern cooking while offering a glimpse into African-American farm life in the early 20th century.”
I did find a few interesting tidbits about Edna Lewis – she sewed a dress for Marilyn Monroe, and until her death, her caregiver was Scott Peacock, a Southern chef, who had lived with her for more than six years, taking care of her as she grew frail, causing a split with her surviving siblings who unsuccessfully tried to move her back to there family home. According to Marion Cunningham, “one of the biggest goals they (Mr. Peacock and Ms. Lewis) had was that they didn’t want to lose the classic Southern dishes, and this was the binding factor. They preached about it, and they wanted to let the country know what the South stood for.”
Edna Lewis published four cookbooks, including The Taste of Country Cooking, which is considered a classic study of Southern cooking. She was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and the James Beard Living Legend Award (their first such award).
For more recipes by Edna Lewis, please visit the blogs listed at the end of this post.
Brunswick Chicken Stew
- 3 pounds chicken cut up
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoons grape seed oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 medium bell pepper chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 28 ounces whole tomatoes in juice drained, reserving juice, chopped
- 10 ounces package frozen corn
- 10 ounces package frozen lima beans
Season chicken parts with salt and pepper.
Whisk cornstarch and cayenne together in a pie pan. Lightly coat chicken in cornstarch, shaking off excess.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown chicken pieces, turning over to brown both sides, about 10 minutes in total. Transfer chicken pieces to a plate
Add onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes.
Add bay leaf, broth, tomatoes and juice, and chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 50 minutes.
Stir in corn and lima beans, and simmer another 15-20 minutes, uncovered, until vegetables are tender.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Discard bay leaf and serve.