The name is less than appetizing, but the actual Burgoo is delicious—so good it makes up for the name.
A hearty meat stew, burgoo is most often made with chicken, beef, and lamb simmered with vegetables, beans, tomatoes, Worcestershire, sorghum or molasses, ketchup, vinegar, and spices.
Nineteenth-century versions of burgoo served around the South frequently included squirrel, opossum, and rabbit, and was gently simmered and stirred for up to 24 hours. While we applaud the stamina of those early chefs, these days a good burgoo can be made in four to six hours. That’s still a commitment, to be sure, but the results—spicy, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food—are worth it. Like gumbo, burgoo has many variations; we’re partial to this one.
Because the stew is made in many different ways with a variety of ingredients, the “Burgoo Song,” which goes, “You can toss in almost anything that ever walked or flew.” Many early recipes for burgoo include squirrel in addition to chicken, beef, and pork. In Kentucky, Anderson County, which hosts its Burgoo Festival every September, is known as the burgoo capital of the world. Arenzville, Illinois, makes a similar claim. But the French lay claims to the basic concept of burgoo, and it’s conceivable that the word burgoo arose somehow from the French ragout (pronounced ra-goo), also a term describing a stew.
- 1 pound beef top round chunked
- 1 pound lamb sirloin chunked
- 1/2 pounds chicken thighs chunked
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 12 cups water
- 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (one 12-ounce bag)
- 2 1/2 cups frozen sliced okra (one 12-ounce bag)
- 2 15-ounce cans, butter beans, drained
- 1 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
- 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup Kentucky sorghum or molasses
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Place the beef, lamb, and chicken in a large Dutch oven.
- Add the salt and water. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface.
- Reduce the heat, partially cover, and simmer until the beef and lamb are fork-tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Remove the beef, lamb, and chicken pieces to a plate and let cool.
- Strain the broth, pour back into Dutch oven.
- Stir in the onion, garlic, mixed vegetables, okra, butter beans, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, sorghum or molasses, ketchup, vinegar, cloves, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 1 1/2 hours.
- Add the meat to the vegetables and cook for about 1/2 hour to thicken the broth.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Recipe, information and photo from KentuckyDerby.com, Epicurious.com, MentalFloss.com, and TheWineBuzz.com
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