Asha Gomez’s Kerala-Meets-Brunswick Stew

Photograph by Greg Dupree

Chef: Asha Gomez, chef-owner of Cardamom Hill

Backstory: Gomez never knows when a new taste in Atlanta will take her back to Kerala, the lush southwestern state on the coast of India where she was born and raised. Take the time several years ago when she and her mother ordered Brunswick stew to go with their ribs at Fat Matt’s. “We both immediately thought of the beef stew my grandmother used to make every Sunday,” recalls Gomez. Never mind that the Georgia barbecue standard typically contains pork instead of beef and lacks the coconut milk that enriched her childhood favorite. The assertive seasoning and thick, soupy consistency struck a familiar chord. For her cross-cultural take, Gomez uses chicken stock and tomatoes for the liquid medium and flavors it with fresh ginger and chiles along with garlic, onions, and cayenne.

3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large sweet onions, finely diced
1 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and cut in matchsticks
1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic
1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped
1 or 2 fresh Thai or serrano chiles, split (optional)
2 quarts chicken stock
1 pint fresh (or frozen, thawed) pinkeye peas or other field peas
1/2 pound baby carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
1/2 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and halved lengthwise
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Crusty bread or cornbread for serving

1. Season the beef with 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sear the pieces in a single layer in batches, avoiding crowding, until nicely caramelized on all sides. Remove and set aside.

2. In a cast-iron Dutch oven or stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and ginger, then the garlic, and cook about 15 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper, turmeric, and the tablespoon of salt. Cook and stir for 6 to 8 minutes, then add the tomatoes, chiles (if using), and meat to the pot, and cook for another 10 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and let it simmer for an hour over medium heat. Taste for seasoning and add more cayenne if desired.

3. Add the peas, carrots, and potatoes and simmer for another half hour or until all vegetables are cooked through, adding more stock or water to thin if needed and tasting again for seasoning. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle cherry tomatoes with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 10 minutes, until they begin to shrivel slightly. Fold into the stew just before serving with bread.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

This article originally appeared in our January 2014 issue under the headline “A Stew of Two Souths.”