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Brown Stew Chicken

brown stew chicken

Ingredients

Chicken & Marinade

  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. onion or garlic powder (or 1 tsp. each)
  • 1 tsp. browning sauce or dark molasses
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. regular or smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 lb. total)

Stew

  • 2 tbsp. neutral oil, divided
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, cored, chopped
  • 4 scallions, white and pale green parts thinly sliced
  • 1 to 2 Scotch bonnet peppers or habanero chiles, seeds removed, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 c. low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 to 3 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped peeled ginger
  • 1 tsp. browning sauce or dark molasses
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bouillon cube (optional)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch (optional)
  • Cooked white rice, for serving

Dubbed as "Brown Stew Chicken," this Jamaican delicacy might have a plain name, but its explosion of flavors has garnered a devoted following among locals and expats alike. This dish showcases a skillful interplay of contrasts, combining the fiery kick of Scotch bonnet and ginger with the soothing sweetness of brown sugar and ketchup. The medley continues with the aromatic notes of allspice and thyme countered by the depth of soy sauce and browning, resulting in a harmonious and lauded outcome.

Curiously, what's this "browning" component? Essentially, it's a blend of brown sugar, soy sauce, and chicken searing. But the distinctive flair comes from browning sauce, a near-burnt sugar concoction that's a staple in Jamaican kitchens, adding a hint of bitterness and subtle sweetness to both sweet and savory dishes. While typically store-bought, some homes make it too, and molasses serves as a suitable alternative.

In Jamaica, the tradition features skin-on, bone-in meat, but I opted for boneless, skinless thighs for simplicity. Pairing this dish with plain white rice or rice and peas is a winning choice. Like any stew, its flavors deepen after a night's refrigeration, intensifying the experience. Enjoy the dish for up to three days, and don't forget to share your culinary journey in the comments below!

Directions

Chicken & Marinade

  1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix brown sugar, soy sauce, onion powder, browning sauce, black pepper, allspice, salt, paprika, and thyme until combined. Rub marinade all over chicken.
  2. Transfer chicken to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or, preferably, up to 12.

Stew

  1. In a large Dutch oven or straight-sided skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Pat chicken dry. Cook half of chicken, undisturbed, until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook until browned on the other side, about 5 minutes more. Transfer chicken to a plate. Repeat with remaining chicken and 1 tablespoon oil. (If after the first batch, the pot blackens, wipe out pot.)
  2. In same pot over medium-high heat, cook onion and bell pepper, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add tomato and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato breaks down, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add scallions, Scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, broth, ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire, ginger, browning sauce, all spice, thyme, bouillon cube (if using), and bay leaves; season with black pepper. Scrape bottom of pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and any accumulated juices and bring to a boil. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until liquid is slightly reduced and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160°, about 15 minutes.
  4. If you want a thicker sauce, in a small bowl, mix cornstarch and 1 teaspoon water. Add slurry, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring frequently, until desired consistency is reached, about 30 seconds.
  5. Divide rice among bowls. Spoon stew over rice.