We have visited The Pit restaurant on West Geer Street in downtown Durham several times these past two years. Their Brunswick Stew appetizer, served up in a small cast-iron kettle, is the most delicious Brunswick stew of all the barbecue restaurants we’ve dined at in North Carolina, over a period of 40 years now. Please convince the chef and owner at The Pit to share this wonderful recipe.
Brunswick stew has been on the menu at The Pit since the restaurant opened in Raleigh in 2007. It is one of the restaurant’s top five best-selling side dishes. They serve as much as 10 gallons a day in the winter.
The recipe is based on a traditional version that the Pit’s owner, Greg Hatem, tasted almost 25 years ago. Hatem, a Raleigh developer who owns Empire Eats and Empire Properties, grew up in Roanoke Rapids. In 1982, Hatem hosted a pig pickin’ in Roanoke Rapids for his uncle, who was visiting from China, and his uncle’s friend, the noted advice columnist Ann Landers. The Halifax County Sheriff’s Department cooked a pig as well as a batch of Brunswick stew for the occasion.
“It was so good, from then on, whenever Greg would cook a pig for a pig pickin’ he would always make his Brunswick Stew based on the recipe from the Halifax County Sheriff’s Department,” explained Samantha Hatem, Greg’s wife and the company’s media relations manager, in an email. “He continued that tradition when he opened The Pit in 2007.”
Specialty of the House gets recipes for local restaurant dishes. Send requests, including your city, to Specialty of the House, The N&O, P.O. Box 191, Raleigh, N.C. 27602; or email email@example.com.
▪ 328 W. Davie St., Raleigh, 919-890-4500, thepit-raleigh.com
▪ 321 W. Geer St., Durham, 919-282-3748, thepit-durham.com
The Pit’s Brunswick Stew
This recipe is adapted from the Pit in Raleigh and Durham. The restaurant version uses leftover barbecue chicken and creamed corn that are also on the menu; the recipe tester adapted it to work for most home cooks; if you have a good barbecue spice rub, use that on the chicken.
Vegetable spray oil
2 bone-in chicken breasts
Seasoning salt, onion salt, salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium Idaho potato, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon vegetable or corn oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
12-ounces frozen lima beans
28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 (14.75-ounce) cans creamed corn
8 cups chicken broth or stock
1/4 cup Texas Pete hot sauce
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 stick unsalted butter
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with vegetable oil spray.
Rub two chicken breasts with seasoning salt, onion salt, salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until internal temperature on a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees. Remove from oven and set aside.
If you have a steamer basket, use it. Otherwise, use a metal strainer that will fit inside a medium saucepan with a lid; add an inch of water to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Place peeled and diced potatoes inside metal strainer, fit inside the sauce pan and cover. Steam potatoes for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Saute onions and lima beans about 5 minutes until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes, creamed corn and chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Stir in Texas Pete sauce, salt, sugar and pepper.
Add potatoes; simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off heat.
Shred chicken and add it to the stew along with butter. Stir until butter is melted. Taste and season with salt, pepper and sugar as needed.
Yield: 12-15 servings.