South by Sur A BrunsMex Stew in every pot
by Oscar Diaz
Photos by Katie Bailey
“We are all very excited to have you be part of this event for our Latinx community. We are putting on an event for Hispanic heritage month and we just knew we wanted you. It would be great if you could cook one or two dishes—but like nice dishes, you know. Not Mexican… something more exotic.”
As a Brown chef in the South, I am often fortunate to take part in community and corporate pro bono events that champion what makes us great: diversity. The premise seems simple—we come together symbolically and physically to display our embrace of new arrivers to the South through food, one of the region’s strongest cultural products. But what my nine years in the South have shown me is that what can start off as a simple request can often become a disheartening transaction in which one’s identity gets mutated into a shiny, neatly packaged narrative. I didn’t get into cooking to claim expertise on Latino. I did get into the business to be myself.
We see you, we invite you take part, but we need to package you to our liking for this to work. All too often, immigrants and second-generation Americans hear that refrain.
“We see you, we invite you take part, but we need to package you to our liking for this to work.”
To envision a better South, let’s start understanding more about the people who live here, respecting where they come from, and reminding ourselves that many voices make up this collective pot of stew. Like a Twitter timeline on steroids, this can be hard to keep up with. But a request for performative work can rob a person’s pride in their food and its meaning. I will not cook in service of drama and spectacle. A request for fetishized food imposes stereotypes. It can feel like being shoved into a box that I never agreed to climb into, and can never climb out of.
Let’s envision a South that is unapologetic about tomatillo potlikker, bulgogi smoked beef ribs, or a BrunsMex stew rich with Mexican goat birria. A South where you can enjoy a vegan barbecue that pushes boundaries. A South where Black chefs get to redefine the cuisine their ancestors created with dignity. In this new South, cultures and traditions intertwine, unified by a continuous dialogue about differences and commonalities. That South will be a place of deep and intricate beauty, where all voices are heard. The result is growth, both personal and collective. A united South is a better South. A better South is the future South.
Or maybe aliens will invade us and conquer the Earth.
Okra & Cactus Salad
With Cherokee Purple tomato, onion, garlic, cilantro, lime, oregano, queso anejo, and tostadas
Butterbeans, Peas, & Longaniza (printable recipe)
Butterbeans and field peas, cotija cheese, butter, fried egg, longaniza, lemon juice
Farmer’s Market Ceviche
With cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, serrano, lime, avocado, leche de tigre, and fried tajin-dusted saltines
Pimento Queso and Heirloom Corn Totopos
Cheddar cheese, roasted peppers, creamy queso, Southern tortilla chips
Tetelas & Foraged Mushroom
Local corn masa tetela, huitlacoche, sautéed mushrooms, vegan crema, fresh truffle
Diablo Shrimp & Grits Taco
Classic grits folded into masa, corn tortilla, guajillo glazed shrimp, sautéed onion, poblano pepper
BrunsMex Stew (printable recipe)
Smoked goat birria, salsa molcajete, corn, black beans, potato, butter beans, carrot, pickled onion, crema, cornbread
Marinated smoked whole hog, local corn tortilla, spicy chow chow, charro style black-eyed peas
Verde Potlikker Tlayuda
Local corn masa tlayuda, tomatillo salsa braised collards, sautéed mushroom, shredded quesillo, heirloom tomatoes
Chicken & Mole
Cornmeal fried chicken, Mama’s mole, pickled onions, charred kale, mashed potatoes
Corn waffle taco, mole ice cream
Omaigaa So Corny
Grilled pound cake, corn ice cream, cream of corn, blueberry compote
Oscar Diaz’s BrunsMex Stew
Serves 6 to 8
Brunswick stew has nearly endless variations, and this birria-inspired spinoff is no exception. Oscar Diaz developed this recipe with smoked goat shoulder. With his blessing, we tested it in a home kitchen with an oven-roasted chuck roast. Both methods and proteins result in a deeply flavorful stew. Diaz says lamb shanks or a lamb shoulder would also work well, and you could braise the meat instead of smoking or roasting. In other words, make this stew your own. We have a feeling you’ll make it again and again.
For the meat:
10 dried guajillo chiles
6 dried ancho chiles
5 dried pasilla chiles
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin
4 whole allspice berries
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 white onion, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
8 garlic cloves
¼ cup white distilled vinegar
4 pounds bone-in goat shoulder or boneless chuck roast
1. Devein and deseed the chiles. Working in batches, toast chiles in a hot, dry skillet for 30 seconds per side.
2. Add toasted chiles, tomatoes, and ½ cup water to a pot. Simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
3. Add tomato-chile mixture and all other marinade ingredients to a blender and purée until smooth. Strain through a mesh strainer. With gloved hands, rub the marinade all over the meat. Place the meat on a wire rack over a sheet pan and allow to marinate overnight. Transfer leftover marinade to a jar and store in the refrigerator.
If smoking the meat:
1. Prepare your smoker with hickory wood chips (or your preferred wood chips). When the smoker reaches 225° F, add the marinated goat shoulder. Brush on some of the reserved marinade periodically over the first three hours. Keep the smoker at 225–250° F. After three hours, brush the meat liberally with marinade and wrap it in butcher paper or banana leaves. Return meat to smoker and allow to cook until the internal temperature reaches 185° F. Depending on the type of smoker, this may take anywhere from 6 to 9 hours.
2. Remove meat from smoker and allow to rest for 45 minutes. Shred all meat, reserving larger bones.
If oven-roasting the meat:
1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Line a sheet pan or roasting pan with aluminum foil and place the marinated chuck roast in the pan. Roast for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 225° F and continue to cook until meat is falling apart. (Begin checking for doneness after 2 to 2 ½ hours total cook time.) Remove from oven. Shred the meat when it has cooled enough to handle.
For the salsa molcajete:
7 ripe tomatoes
4 garlic cloves
4 fresh serrano chiles, stems removed
Salt, to taste
Char tomatoes, garlic, and chiles in a dry skillet over medium-high heat or under a broiler, turning occasionally. When the garlic has dark brown spots on both sides, remove it from the heat. Let the serranos and tomatoes continue cooking until charred all over and soft all the way through. Allow everything to cool slightly before transferring to a blender. Add a generous pinch of salt and blend a few pulses at a time. Taste and add salt as desired. Do not overblend—you want a thick and chunky consistency.
For the stew:
2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola
½ cup diced potato
½ cup diced carrot
½ cup diced white onion
½ tablespoon minced garlic
6 ounces tomato paste
1 cup cooked fresh butter beans (or thawed frozen butter beans)
1 cup fresh corn kernels (or thawed frozen corn)
½ cup cooked black beans (rinse if using canned)
3 teaspoons white distilled vinegar
1 cup water
1 recipe salsa molcajete (recipe above)
Shredded meat (recipe above)
Reserved bones from cooking meat, if using
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
Pickled onions for garnish (optional)
Tortilla strips for garnish (optional)
1. Heat oil in a large rondeau pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add potatoes, carrots, and onion. Sauté until the onion is slightly translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes.
2. Add remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. The stew should be on the thicker side. If it is too thick, add water ½ cup at a time, stir, and let simmer. If it is too thin, thicken with a cornstarch-and-water slurry.
3. Ladle stew into bowls and garnish as desired with cilantro leaves, pickled onions, and thin fried tortilla strips.
Oscar Diaz’s Butter Beans and Field Peas with Longaniza
For the longaniza:
3 dried guajillo chiles
1 dried pasilla chile
1 dried chile de arbol
1 ¼ pounds pork shoulder, ground (or packaged ground pork)
3 cloves of garlic
¼ cup chopped onion
½ teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of ground cinnamon
½ tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 ¼ tablespoons salt
½ cup distilled white vinegar
1. Devein and deseed the chiles. Place them in a bowl of warm water and soak until softened, about 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, if grinding your own pork, cut the pork shoulder into cubes and place in freezer along with a ¼-inch (6-mm) grinder plate.
3. Remove chiles from water and add them, along with all other ingredients except pork, to a blender. Purée until smooth.
4. If grinding your own pork, remove meat from freezer once pork reaches 33°F and pass through meat grinder.
5. In a large mixing bowl, use gloved hands to combine ground pork with sauce until well incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a colander and place it over the mixing bowl. Refrigerate uncovered for at least two hours, or up to overnight, so that it dries out slightly.
Note: If you like to make your own sausages, skip the colander step. Stuff the longaniza mixture into natural casings and hang in the refrigerator to dry for at least two days.
For the butter beans and field peas:
2 cups fresh butter beans
2 cups fresh field peas, such as purple hulls
1 recipe longaniza (above)
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons cotija cheese
Canola oil for frying
1. Cook beans and peas separately to ensure perfect doneness. Put two large pots on the stove. Place butter beans in one pot and field peas in the other. Add water to each pot to cover the beans—about 6 cups. Add salt to each pot, enough that the water tastes like the ocean. Bring both pots to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, lower heat to medium and simmer. Begin checking the beans for doneness after about 30 minutes. The centers should be smooth and creamy with just a bit of tooth. Drain and reserve the cooked beans.
Putting it all together:
1. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add longaniza and cook, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon. When the longaniza is almost cooked through, about 5 minutes, add the minced garlic and cook until the garlic is golden.
2. Add all the butter beans and field peas to the skillet. Add lemon juice and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the butter. As soon as the butter hits the pan, stir quickly to emulsify the lemon juice and butter. Once emulsified, add the cotija and quickly stir to incorporate. Turn off the heat.
3. In a separate nonstick pan, heat canola oil and fry the eggs to your liking—I like mine hard-fried sunny side up. (Depending on the size of your pan, of course, you may need to fry the eggs one or two at a time.)
4. Spoon a serving of beans and peas with longaniza onto each plate and top each serving with a fried egg.
Oscar Diaz is the Lodge Cast Iron chef for this year’s virtual Fall Symposium. He is the chef of Cortez and Jose and Sons, two Raleigh restaurants that meld his Mexican heritage and his Southern home.
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