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Brown Stew Chicken & Fried Plantain

Kwame Onwuachi

Lesson time 30 min

This comforting dish is what Kwame would eat at home after school almost every day. The chicken is blackened and braised in a rich brown gravy with a hint of spicy Scotch bonnet pepper. Kwame serves it with fried plantains and Calypso aioli, making it a fantastic dish that will be a total crowd pleaser. The essence of Jamaica on a plate.

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– [Kwame] All right. So yeah, I wanted one kilo of this. – [Vendor] Yeah. – [Kwame] I wanted to get some green onions, and some thyme. So brown stew chicken is a very humble dish. You know, I think every nation has their stewed chicken dish. You know, America has chicken and dumplings. You know, this is our version of that. It’s also like a very, very simple dish, but those are the dishes that are the hardest. You have no room to hide. It’s not masked by a bunch of heat. There’s a lot of nuances in this dish. I’m first gonna start by searing the chicken. Now searing the chicken does so many things. It locks in the flavor, but it also caramelizes the protein on the outside developing nuances of flavor that wouldn’t be there if you just poached it. So I’m gonna grab my chicken, and we’re gonna start this thing. Now, this is the chicken after 24 hours. See the skin has like soaked in all of those flavors. It has a deep, dark hue to it. Now we’re gonna scrape all these aromatics off the chicken, sear it, and then stew the aromatics back in that same pot that the fond has developed. I’m gonna take this over to the stove. All right. So I have my rack here, because after I sear the chicken, I’m gonna place it on the rack, and I’m gonna develop my sauce after that. I’m gonna get this flame on high. I want it to be super hot, so it seals in those juices, it gets nice and brown, and a little bit crispy. But, you don’t want to cook the chicken all the way through, you just want to brown it. And now I’m gonna sear the chicken. Now you wanna scrape the marinade off, ’cause we want all those beautiful vegetables to build that sauce. So you want this chicken to be dark, all right? It’s called brown stew chicken for a reason, so don’t be afraid. It’s not a light brown. It’s not a medium brown. It’s a dark brown, all right? Now you see this? More. More. Oh yeah, that’s nice. So now this chicken is ready. So I’m gonna just flip it over, let it go a little bit more on the other side. And the reason I’m doing this is to render the fat out of that chicken. You know, I I want to get that fat, you know, as lean as possible, ’cause It’s gonna stew. You’re gonna eat this with the chicken, and you don’t want to flabby piece of skin. Oh yeah, that’s nice. So you see now the chicken is brown beautifully on both sides. Really, really crispy. I’m gonna place this to the side. I’m gonna add the next pieces. Skin-side down first. So these are seared beautifully on all sides, kinda blackened really. You know, this dish I used to eat pretty much after school every day. It was like a very homey dish. And I recently came to Jamaica, and, you know, this chef, he goes by Alex the Great, he showed me how to make this dish, like truly, you know, to the essence of, you know, how Jamaicans eat it. And I remember I was searing it, and I thought it was like lightly golden brown, and he was like, no, put it back in the oil, put it back in the oil, It’s brown stew chicken, they call it that for a reason. So, if you think you’re caramelizing it too much, throw that out. There’s a lot of spices and sugars on there that are deeply enrichening their flavors by cooking it that long. So I’m gonna add my aromatics to this now. And I wanna get all of this in there. And I’m gonna use this wooden spoon to stir it, and kinda release all those bits at the bottom. And this is how it gets naturally brown. I add a little bit of browning just to accentuate those flavors, and ’cause I’m in the islands, but you don’t really need to do that if you’re caramelizing it like I’m doing. So I’m gonna let these start to sing together. I’m gonna add a little bit more salt to this. Just a touch more sugar. I’m gonna grab some ketchup and some chicken stock. So, you know, they use ketchup in Jamaican cooking, and it adds a lot of flavor. You think about it, It’s a condiment, it has, you know, tomato, it has some sugar. I like to add it before, and a lot of times in Jamaican cooking, they add at the end, and this way it cooks out that tomato sauce, kinda like a barbecue sauce. And It’s just a little bit. This adds a nice gloss to the dish, as well as a nice sweet tomato finish. I’m also gonna add this chicken stock in a bit, but I want this ketchup to cook out a little bit in these vegetables. So this is a dish that continues to develop flavors. You know, you have the bitter notes from the deeply caramelized sugars, and those deeply toasted spices, and then you have the sweetness from the cane sugar, and the ketchup. So, this dish to me is so complex, and it continues to remind me how nuanced Caribbean cooking is. So I’m gonna add some chicken stock to this now. And you can see how gelatinous this chicken stock is. That’s why I use all those chicken feet, chicken bones that hold chicken, it adds so much complexity, and layers of flavor to this dish. So now I’m gonna add the chicken back to the stew, and we’re gonna let this simmer for about an hour. We want this to be so tender, It’s almost falling off the bone. I’m gonna put a lid on this. So I’mma let this simmer for about 45 minutes to about an hour, until It’s falling off the bone. And now I’m gonna make some accompaniments, some calypso aioli with fried plantains. So I’m gonna make a calypso aioli. Now we’re gonna make our own aioli or mayo, but first I’m gonna make this beautiful base, or this vegetable puree, that’s spicy, sweet, and has all the elements for a perfect dipping sauce. We’ll get some bell peppers, carrots, ginger, onion, garlic, some vinegar, and mustard, and a scotch bonnet pepper. This is a yellow sauce, so I wouldn’t want to put a green pepper in there to combat all those colors. I want all them to sing together. Okay, cool. So calypso sauce is a Caribbean hot sauce. It’s a yellow pepper-based hot sauce. You’ll find it at most restaurants, you know, just sitting on the table, kind of like a condiment when you go to a deli, and you have ketchup and mustard, you’ll see calypso sauce. And It’s a great hot sauce for anything, for fish, for meats, and also for plantains. So I’m gonna separate my vegetables, ’cause I wanna sweat the stronger aromatics from the softer ones. I’m gonna build these flavors first, cook them down, and I’m gonna add the other ones, like the yellow pepper and the carrot. Just gonna slice these onions. All this is going in the blender, so it doesn’t have to be precise. You should kinda want it evenly cut, so they cook at the the same time. Gonna add this to the ginger bowl. Gonna throw this pepper. I’m gonna add a couple cloves of garlic. Now I’m just gonna smash the garlic with my knife. It’s gonna make it easier to cut, as well as easier to peel. So now I’m gonna cut these peppers. We’re gonna cut these into julienne, and rough chop. This doesn’t need to be anything super precise, just kind of the same size. All right, now It’s time to cook. Chicken looks good. So I’m gonna turn this flame on high heat, and add a little bit of oil. You don’t want your oil too hot, because you’re just gonna sweat these vegetables. You don’t want any color on them. You just want them to start to release their natural juices. I’m gonna add this right to the pot. Now I’m gonna season it with some salt, this is gonna help that process a little bit, and help start to build flavor. I want to cook out the onions, the garlic, and the ginger first, make sure they’re cooked out properly, before I add in the other things. So now the vegetables have sweated down, there you see they’re a little bit translucent, and that’s what you’re looking for. You don’t want any color on them. I’m gonna add all of these other aromatics to it, these bell peppers, scotch bonnet, carrots. I’m gonna let this cook down a little bit as well. I’m gonna add a little bit more salt at this point. This is gonna help draw out the moisture from the vegetables. And then It’s gonna take like 20 minutes to stew. So while this is simmering, I’m gonna put this to the back, let this stew down, and then we’re gonna start on our plantains. So I’m gonna put my pan on high heat, and fill this about halfway with canola oil. You don’t really need to deep fry it, you can shallow fry it, and then turn it as you’re cooking it. So this process is pretty simple. I’m grabbing some plantains, and you want them to be pretty dark. You don’t want them to be too bright. You don’t want them to be too yellow. You want them to be almost black all the way around. And the blacker they are, the sweeter they are. So a plantain is a little bit different from a banana. It has a higher starch content, so that’s why It’s great for frying. You know, you wouldn’t really eat a plantain raw. It’s a little bit larger. And, I mean, it grows in the same places that bananas grow, so you can get them confused. I’m just gonna cut the tops off. So you’re gonna peel these just like a banana. They’re a lot easier to peel when they’re ripe, they’re a little bit more difficult to peel when they’re green. So I’m gonna cut these on a bias, which means It’s pretty much on a slant. All right, I’m gonna check on this calypso sauce before I fry this up. I’m gonna add some yellow mustard to this, some vinegar, and I’m gonna grab some vegetable stock. So you’ll see the vegetable stock does not have much a viscosity to it, but it does have a lot of flavor. Gonna stir this. Now I’m gonna fry the plantains. You can dip one in, and see how it sizzles up? That’s the water really like coming off of this. So, that’s how you know It’s ready. So you wanna fry it at about 350 degrees. I wanna just place them nicely. If you dump them at the same time, they’ll clump together. So, this is a better method of frying anything really. If you don’t have plantains, you can swap out another vegetable, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, even, but plantains is best for this dish. This usually takes about six minutes to fry. Some of them are ready to flip. I’m gonna check on this brown stew. It’s looking good. I’m gonna continue to cook this without the lid on it, that way the sauce can reduce, it can get nice and velvety, and coat the chicken beautifully when It’s done. These plantains are ready. Nice, and, you know, deeply toasted, but sweet on the inside. Gonna turn this fire off. I’m gonna season this with a little salt. All right. These vegetables are nice and soft. We’re gonna blend them, and then add them to an a aioli. Let me get my blender, my handy-dandy blender. So I’m gonna add the contents of this straight to the blender. You wanna make sure you blend it while It’s hot, this leaves a smoother product at the end. All right, so now that we got a smooth puree, I’m gonna cool it down, and while It’s cooling, I’m gonna make my a aioli. I’m gonna cool it directly on a sheet tray, really quickly, in the fridge, this thing is gonna cool down in no time. I’m just gonna line it, ’cause I don’t want that vinegar to react on this metal, and give it a like a metallic flavor. I’m gonna put one more layer on, that way it doesn’t form a skin while it cools. I’m gonna press it directly on here. Pop this right in the fridge. So I’m gonna make a simple aioli. I’m gonna use eggs, lime juice, a little bit of mustard, salt, and canola oil. So first I’m gonna crack my eggs. I’m gonna save the whites for something else. And I like to do this in a separate bowl, that way I can catch any eggshells that come out, sometimes eggs have a little blood in them. You want to make sure you don’t put that directly into the bowl you’re using. I’m gonna create a nest for my bowl here. I’m gonna add a little bit of the mustard to this. Little bit of salt. If you add a towel, then you don’t really have to hold the bowl. And that’s a really cool trick we use in the restaurants. As I’m whisking this, I’m gonna whisk in a little bit of oil at a time. And what you’re doing is you’re creating an emulsion, all right? And that’s what the egg yolk really does. And this is a interesting sauce, ’cause the more oil you add, the thicker it gets. I’m looking for a really, really nice thick consistency. And It’s a really nice balance between the egg yolks and the oil. So you’re looking for this to stand when it lifts, so It’s almost there. All right, so now we have our aioli. Just a little bit of lime, ’cause we have the acidity in that calypso sauce. So this aioli is now done. And the time that it takes to make that, it should be done. The beautiful thing about this sauce, is you can use this as a hot sauce for so many things, fish, wings, you know, like whatever you really want, you can use this for and save this. So I’mma use about half of this for the aioli. And to stir this up. Give this a taste. Oh man, that is great. I’m gonna add a little bit more lime to this. I’mma get these seeds out. Look how small these limes are in the Caribbean. They’re small, but they pack a lot of punch. I’m gonna plate this, this bowl. Just put a little bit more of this right on top. I’m gonna take these plantains, and put them into a bowl. So I made rice and peas with one of my other recipes, so I’m gonna serve it with my brown stew chicken, because that is a traditional side dish. Wow. Smells amazing. Looks amazing, tastes amazing. Time to plate up. Gonna plate some of this rice. And there you have it, brown stew chicken, fried plantains, and calypso aioli. Enjoy.

About the Instructor

Kwame Onwuachi started peeling shrimp and stirring roux at 5 years old in his mother’s catering kitchen in the Bronx. The James Beard Award-winning chef has received many accolades since then, including FOOD & WINE’S Best New Chef, Esquire Magazine’s 2019 Chef of the Year, 30 Under 30 honoree by both Forbes and Zagat, and has appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef as both a contestant and judge. In his class, Onwuachi embraces the richness of Afro-Caribbean culture and cuisine, and teaches students how to cook his favorite Jamaican recipes.

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