Sunday, March 1, 2009

Burgoo (or, Houseboat Food)

When I was young, my family spent (what felt like) an entire summer on a houseboat on Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee. I'll never forget that trip -- jumping from the roof of the houseboat down into the clearest lake water you've ever seen, spending all day in a swimsuit, waterskiing until my legs were sore, and (to betray my true redneck soul) bathing in the lake with Ivory soap. (Why Ivory? Because it floats, of course. Have you people never bathed in a lake before...? No? Oh..... right.)

That whole summer, all I remember having for meals were copious amounts of a summer stew we simply referred to as "burgoo."


The recipe wasn't really even a recipe -- more just a conglomeration of ingredients with the instructions to "pour off water, serve with sour cream."

Which basically left me in the dark as to how I should prepare it. So I naturally did what anyone sitting in front of a computer all day would do: I googled burgoo.

Bad idea. Turns out the dish has its roots in deep Kentucky fokelore, where it was (allegedly) first made with squirrel, possum or whatever else was in season (or recently run over by a car).

Ew. That was not what I wanted to hear. The burgoo recipe from our houseboat summer has chicken and stew beef, along with several cans of whatever veggies you happen to like in a stew. I swear my family didn't ever put roadkill in it. Honest.

After a bit more googling, I figured I could just cook it in my arch-nemesis, the Crock Pot. I layered all the meats and veggies, topped the whole pile with a few packets of beef bouillion, and said a quick prayer over the whole thing. ("Dear Lord, please let this be edible tonight when I get home...")

On the way home that night, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a loaf of bread to go with it, because bread makes everything taste better.


After a good 8 hours in the Crock, the meats were falling apart and the canned veggies still resembled their vegetable shapes, which was good. I wish I'd put more seasoning into it, though -- it was a bit bland.


Overall, I would rate the dish a success, although it still didn't resemble the delicious dish we ate that summer on the houseboat. I might try the recipe again in the summer, with less water and more seasoning next time. I was hoping for a stew consistency, and this was more soup-like. I'm thinking some cornstarch with the beef bouillion, no? Oui? Eh, whatever. :)

1 lb. Boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 lb. Stew beef
2 tbsp. oil (to brown meats)
whole onion, chopped
4 cans chicken broth (or 10 boullion cubes with 4 c. water)
2 16 oz cans of stewed tomatoes
1 can of summer squash (I couldn't find this -- clearly, because it was February and I'm trying to make a summer stew. I am so seasonally appropriate, no?)
2 cans whole potatoes
1 can cooked carrots
1 can peas
1 can kernel corn
1 can okra, corn, and tomatoes

Cut chicken breasts into small pieces. Season chicken and beef, then brown meats with chopped onion in oil. Combine meats with veggies and broth in stockpot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until you are ready to eat it. Pour off any extra water and top with grated cheddar and sour cream. Season with salt and pepper.

(Disclaimer -- in writing out this recipe, I have added what I believe would be a better way to go about it -- instead of my Crock Pot version. If you sear the seasoned meat beforehand in oil with the chopped onion, I would imagine its much more flavorful. If you still wanted to make it in the Crock Pot, I would just sear the meats briefly to lock in the flavor, then combine all the ingredients (except for the peas, they will turn to mush) and cook as usual in the Crock Pot. You can stir in the peas at the end, right before serving.)


Erica said...

you know what tastes like chicken? EVERYTHING! I get my kids to eat anything by telling them it is either chicken or steak.

It does look and sound good though.

And I've bathed in a lake too!!! the problem with our lakes in FL though is that when you get out (at least at camp) they make you squirt an alcohol/peroxide mix into your ears to fight bacteria. gross.

mom said...

Burgoo! I used to cook it on the stove top in a big pot. I would brown the meats in a fry pan first then dump all the stuff in a big soup type pot with canned veggies, drained.. Yummy. I think I remember a dollop of sour cream or shreadded cheese on top?

Good way to finish up the left over veggies from the night before.

Mom said...

Wonderful summer memories....Houseboat, with toddler (initials CAH) in life jacket and floating ring around his chest; tethered to the back of the boat, while boat was parked of course. We all swam, jumped, knee board-ed, innertubed or held on tight to the "chariot" being pulled behind the ski boat. Fantastic fun! Don't forget 100 viewings of "The Princess Bride" too. That blessed arrangement...

Steven said...

Heather has become quite the cook! I am always surprised to see the great meals she creates.

If the whole lawyer thing doesn't work out, who knows, she may have another career on her hands! :)