What qualifies as great home-style cooking? To me, it should be rich, flavorful, filling and unpretentious. For a perfect example, try the brown stew chicken at chef Marvil Rodney's eponymous Smyrna restaurant, Rodney's Jamaican Soul Food.
Brown stew chicken is a simply named, visually unlovely dish that seduces you, nonetheless. The gravy, brown as advertised, overflows with complex flavors that touch every region of the palate. The chicken is first seared, then braised nearly to the point of melting into the gravy itself. Yet, the potatoes must be added to the pot later — they're tender, not mealy or overcooked.
The dish comes with a choice of two sides, and it would be foolish pass on a starch like rice or potatoes that can serve as a vehicle for the extra gravy. I'd highly recommend the rice and peas, which perfectly mingled with the stew. The collard greens also were good, further proving that corners aren't cut in Rodney's kitchen.
Restaurants that serve such home-style dishes wade into dangerous territory. If you're paying to eat out, shouldn't the food be something you can't just make at home? The brown stew chicken at Rodney's leaves no doubt: You can't make this at home. If you can, then please open a restaurant like Rodney's. There's always room at the table for dishes this deeply satisfying.
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