Throughout the Caribbean a version of Brown Stew or Stew(ed) Chicken will not only be found, but the technique or recipe for making said dish, will differ from island to island and home to home. As a Trinbagonian I never grew up seeing this dish made this way until I moved to Canada, at my Jamaican friend’s home and it was reinforced in my memory as I started to travel to Jamaica.
4 lbs chicken
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tomato (diced)
2 scallions (chopped)
1/2 medium carrot (julienne)
1/4 red bell pepper (sliced)
1/4 yellow bell pepper (sliced)
1/4 green bell pepper (sliced)
1 scotch bonnet pepper (see note below)
1 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon Caribbean browning
2 tablespoon tomato ketchup
3-4 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon jerk dry rub
8 pimento berries (allspice) 4 cloves garlic
3 slices Ginger
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 cups water
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
Notes! May I recommend that you watch the video below to follow along, as additional questions you may have will be covered there. I used a variety of colors of bell peppers, but you may stick to one color if that’s all you have. I sliced my scotch bonnet pepper as I enjoy my brown stew chicken spicy, should you want to hold off using a spicy pepper fell free to do so. Additionally you can add the scotch bonnet as you add the water to the pot to braise the chicken, but float the pepper whole and do NOT break it. Fish it out before you turn off the stove and discard. you’ll get the flavors from the oils on the skin of the Scotch Bonnet without the raw heat.
I used a 50/50 combo of drumsticks and thighs, bone in but the skin and most of the fat were removed. Season with the black pepper, salt, dry jerk rub, paprika, pimento berries (allspice), Caribbean browning, onion, soy sauce, carrots, scallions, thyme, bell peppers, garlic, ginger and scotch bonnet. Give it a good mix.
Allow it to marinate for at least a couple hours or overnight if you have the time.
After it’s marinated, heat the oil in a deep pot on a medium flame. Shake the marinade off the chicken pieces and brown in the hot oil. We’re not trying to fully cook the chicken, but to simply give it some color. Do it in batches so you don’t crowd the pot. Reserve all the marinade in the bowl.
Give them about 8-10 minutes, be sure to flip them so they brown evenly.
Once you’re done browning the chicken, remove (and discard) all but 1 tablespoon of the oil we started with and add back all the chunky vegetables etc we marinated the chicken with, into the pot. In the same bowl we marinated the chicken, add the water and swish around.
3 minutes later it’s time to add back the browned chicken to the pot (including any juices) along with the water from the bowl we marinated the chicken in.
As it starts to come to a boil it’s time to add the tomato ketchup and the diced tomato. Reduce to between a simmer and rolling boil (med/low heat) to fully cook the chicken. I didn’t cover the pot (while you could), as I wanted a thick gravy at the end. Be sure to stir every 4-5 minutes.
After about 15-20 minutes (depending on how big the pieces of chicken were that you used) the chicken should be done, so it’s time to personalize things.
Taste and adjust the salt to your liking and determine if the gravy is as thick as you’d like. Keep in mind that the residual heat from the pot will further cook this as it cools.
While my Jamaican friend’s granny recipe was a little different the knowledge I gained from her was a true blessing. Over the years I’ve changed things around a little to personalize the outcome to my liking. Be sure to warn your dinner guests about the pimento berries (remove them before serving if you can, along with the springs from the thyme and ginger slices).
So what makes this Jamaican Brown Stew? To be honest, the only real difference from the Stewed Chicken I grew up eating Trinidad and Tobago, is we don’t normally add browning to the marinade as we caramelize brown sugar in the pot to start and carrots and bell peppers are not typically included. For more flavors in your Brown Stew, add a bit of Caribbean Green Seasoning and a bay leaf or 2 won’t hurt.