Like most daughters, I think the world of my father. My dad has been a student of ornithology since his high school years and has an unwavering respect for the undeveloped coast. Dad, a former student of Dr. Eugene P. Odum, is right in his element during this birding weekend and I'm very blessed to get to spend it with him. Now that my husband has taken up birding as well, it is an annual weekend with my two favorite men.
We sleep and cook in the dorms of UGA’s Marine Institute. After several years of spending this special weekend in the dorm, I’ve streamlined my cooking and now have it down to a science. It only takes producing a meal in a dorm kitchen once to learn a long list of lessons of what works and what doesn’t. For example, my first trip I made shrimp and grits from scratch in the tiny, badly equipped kitchen. That was not a good idea.
I now cook a great deal of the food ahead of time and pack it into coolers. I also pack my knives, a few basics like cutting boards and tongs, and some kitchen towels and an apron. To get to the dock, it’s about a 5-hour drive from our house before a much anticipated short and breathtaking ferry ride to the island.
My menus change from year to year, so I’m always thinking of recipes that feed a crowd and can be made ahead. I took my Fast Brunswick Stew this year and it worked perfectly. I made it at home, packaged it, and packed it on ice. All it needed on the island was reheating. Because it’s ready to go, I have the luxury of more time to enjoy the island with my camera before supper.
I rode a bicycle most of the day on Saturday, taking in meandering creeks through the salt marsh, exploring the property once owned by RJ Reynolds, and reading while listening to the surf. Every cook should be so lucky.
Fast Brunswick Stew
Makes about 17 cups
1 pound lean ground beef
2 (15.25-ounce) cans whole kernel corn or 3 cups frozen kernel corn, thawed
2 (15-ounce) cans sweet peas or 3 cups frozen sweet peas, thawed
2 (14.5-ounce) cans stewed tomatoes with onions and celery
1 (14.75-ounce) can cream-style sweet corn
3 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles
3 cups chopped barbecued pork
2 cups chopped cooked chicken (1/2 rotisserie chicken)
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons salt (see Note)
Brown the ground beef in a large stockpot over medium heat. Use a spatula or a spoon to break up any large clumps as it cooks. Drain the meat and return to the stockpot.
While the beef is browning, drain the cans of whole kernel corn and sweet peas. If canned stewed tomatoes are in large pieces, use a pair of kitchen scissors to chop them slightly, right in the can. Once the beef is browned and drained, add the drained corn, peas, and stewed tomatoes to the ground beef.
Add the cream-style corn, tomato sauce, green chiles, barbecued pork, chicken, vinegar, brown sugar, hot sauce, lemon zest and juice, and salt to the stockpot. Simmer the stew for 15 minutes.
Note: The amount of salt is going to depend on the brand of canned items. Some vary more in salt amounts than others. Taste for salt and add as you need it.