Indoor Kitchen Burgoo recipe from Southern Soups and Stews cookbook, by Nancie McDermott
Southern Soups and Stews Author Nancie McDermott on her Indoor Kitchen Burgoo recipe:
Arguments persist across state lines about the origins of Brunswick stew, with the states of Georgia and Virginia professing their claims with passion and earnest dedication, while North Carolina watches the ball being batted back and forth, high above its red clay soil. On the origins of burgoo, there is simply no dispute. Burgoo’s homeplace then, now, and forevermore is the Bluegrass state of Kentucky. Nineteenth-century burgoo-fests drew thousands of people. Not only is burgoo the centerpiece of benefits and fundraisers throughout the year at church parish halls, community picnics, county fairs, and family gatherings, it is permanently on the menu at many a Kentucky restaurant or café. The town of Owensboro may or may not be where the stew originated, but it is surely the de facto home plate now. Barbecued mutton often shares top billing with burgoo at festivals and burgoo-centric celebrations. At home, you can serve burgoo with cornbread, yeast rolls, sliced white bread, or saltine crackers. Or stick with tradition and have a mutton barbecue sandwich, with slaw on the side.
Spending a third of my life in the South and being married to a born-and-bred Cajun, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my share of gumbo, etouffée, and fricassee, along with other Southern soups and stews — the focus of Nancie McDermott’s latest cookbook. However, I don’t know much about the regional foods of Kentucky and have heard of burgoo for only one reason: the Kentucky Derby (“the fastest two minutes in sports”). A horse-racing fan for many years, I like to celebrate the Triple Crown races with traditional food and drink when possible. My early research on the Kentucky Derby cuisine quickly led me to Mint Juleps (of course), Hot Brown Sandwiches (invented at the Brown Hotel in Louisville), and Derby Pie (don’t want to bake? order one online!). I also learned about the exotic-sounding soup/stew Burgoo, often called the state dish of Kentucky. You can find out more about that name and the history of the dish here. Want to make burgoo yourself? Traditionally cooked outside at large celebrations, McDermott offers an “indoor” version in her recipe below. If you’re planning on a Kentucky Derby party this year, give this recipe a try, and please invite me! I promise to wear my Derby hat and bring some Mint Juleps.
Indoor Kitchen Burgoo
Featured Recipe From: Southern Soups & Stews: More Than 75 Recipes from Burgoo and Gumbo to Etouffée and Fricassee
Yield: Serves 25 to 30
2½ pounds chicken legs and thighs
1½ pounds boneless mutton or lamb, cut into large chunks
1½ pounds boneless beef, cut into large chunks
1 pound boneless pork, preferably Boston butt, country-style ribs, or chops, cut into large chunks
Three 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
4 cups coarsely chopped potatoes
3 cups coarsely chopped onions
2 cups coarsely chopped cabbage
2 cups yellow or white corn, fresh, frozen, or canned
2 cups butterbeans or lima beans, fresh, frozen, or canned
1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
1 cup sliced fresh or frozen okra
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. In a large, heavy stockpot, combine the chicken, mutton, beef, and pork. Add enough water to cover the meats. Bring it to a rolling boil over high heat.
2. When the meat comes to a rolling boil, lower the heat to maintain an active boil, and begin to skim away any foam that rises to the top. Stir just enough to make sure the water can circulate around the various pieces of meat. Within 10 to 15 minutes, most of the foam will have risen to the top. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle but lively simmer and cook it for 2 to 3 hours, until the meat is very tender. You should be able to pull the various meats apart easily using two forks.
3. Remove the stockpot from the heat and set out a large deep bowl or baking pan, big enough to hold all the meat. Carefully transfer the meat to the bowl, leaving the broth behind in the stockpot. Spread the meat out so that it can cool down quickly. When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove and discard any bones and cartilage. Pull the meat apart into small pieces, using forks or your hands. You could also chop it coarsely. Return the meat to the stockpot and place it back on the stove.
4. Over very low heat, bring the meat back to a simmer. Meanwhile, add the tomatoes, potatoes, onions, cabbage, corn, butter beans, carrots, okra, bell pepper, Worcestershire, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir the ingredients together.
5. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the stew back to a rolling boil. Stir well and then adjust the heat to maintain a lively, active simmer. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender, the meat has turned to shreds, and the burgoo has thickened into a chunky, rusty-red pleasing stew, 2 to 3 hours. Remove from the heat, sprinkle on the parsley, and serve the burgoo hot or warm.
Note: For this recipe, bone-in meats work nicely and, in fact, add more flavor. Buy half again as much as the recipe requires, to allow for the weight of the bones. You can remove the bones at the same time as the chicken bones. Keep in mind that with a large stockpot full of stew, stirring gets more challenging toward the end of cooking time.
There is little active cooking for this recipe, but since it needs a lively simmer in order to cook down, sticking and burning are possible. Adding water early on is fine, but toward the end, it could dilute the flavors. Your watchwords are “low and slow,” but remember it needs to be visibly, actively cooking. Consider a two-day burgoo-cooking plan: You could cook the meats and make the broth on day one. Then let them cool overnight, and begin with boning and shredding on day two. Add the vegetables and cook it all down into burgoo.
© 2015 Nancie McDermott
Reprinted with permission from Southern Soups & Stews: More Than 75 Recipes from Burgoo and Gumbo to Etouffée and Fricassee, by Nancie McDermott (Chronicle Books)