That, my friends, is burgoo. At least, it’s supposed to be. I bought a whole chicken last week and had some pieces left that I thought would be great for soup, but I’m still not sure how I landed on burgoo. I’ve never made it myself, but I have memories of helping to make it.
For those of you who’ve never heard of burgoo, it’s a soup made primarily in Western Kentucky. It’s pretty remarkable, as far as soups go, because it’s generally made in huge batches and sold by the gallon (or half gallon) as a fundraiser for schools, churches, fire departments, student organizations, etc.
Here’s how it should go down: build a fire (outside), get yourself a big honkin’ cast iron pot (think a witch’s kettle), position it over the fire, toss in all the veggies and meat you can find, and cook the devil out of it. I’m talking hours and hours and hours.
Once when I was in junior high school, the Junior Optimist Club, of which I was a member, had a sleepover at the Riverview school house and made some burgoo. I remember standing in the cool dark of a fall morning stirring pots of soup with big wooden paddles and later watching the sun rise over the Ohio River. It feels like another world at this point.
And so, I had high hopes for my burgoo this weekend. I slow cooked the chicken and a pound of stew meat (last night), deboned the bird (this morning), and even found (at the Italian Market) what is surely the last okra of the season, and yet my burgoo came out tasting like a delicious vegetable soup, not a burgoo at all.
If I ever find a way to make it, I’ll share the recipe with y0u. Until then, you’re on your own. You can try this recipe or one of these, but I have a feeling it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to replicate the magic that happens in those pre-dawn hours on the banks of the Ohio.