Growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky meant consuming a steady diet of lots of creatures of the woods: rabbit, deer, quail, grouse maybe the occasional groundhog…all fair game and often, depending on the preparation, delicious.

One of the hallmarks of Kentucky cooking is burgoo, a rich hunter’s stew chock full of game and whatever vegetables happen to be on hand at the time of the cook-down.

I only make burgoo once a year. What our Kentucky forbears intended as a huntsman’s dish to accommodate the plenitude of game roaming the meadows and forests has, for me, a city dweller, devolved into a once a year dish involving driving all over town to procure a rough simulacrum of what a skilled hunter might accumulate in his game bag in a couple sessions in the woods. First things first: Let’s make a roux so we can thicken the burgoo when it’s cooked.


1 c. Bacon Fat

2 c. Flour, white, all purpose

* Heat bacon fat in cast iron pan

* Add flour

* Stand at stove stirring fat/flour mixture on medium heat for about 45 minutes til the roux is a deep walnut brown

* Reserve

Ingredients for Burgoo:

8 quarts good, homemade stock, pork or chicken will work fine but if you can produce a venison stock you will be on your way to Burgoo greatness

1 lb Alligator Sausage, smoked (Far from traditional but I live in Texas where gators are plentiful and delicious)

1 lb Pork Brisket, roasted

2 lbs Frog Legs, roasted

1 lb Goat, roasted

2 lbs Chicken Legs, roasted

2 lbs Deer, roasted

1 each Rabbit, roasted

5 lbs Poblano Chiles, chopped

1 each Celery, bunch, chopped

2 each Green Onions, bunches, minced, giant ones are best

2 each Garlic, bulbs, minced

24 oz Canned Whole Tomatoes

1 each Cabbage, thinly sliced

14 oz Hominy, dry, white or yellow

5 each, Bay Leaves


* Roast or smoke all your meats til nicely cooked

* Heat 12 quart cookpot with 3 T. peanut oil til smoking

* Add Poblanos and celery-cook for 15 minutes

* Add Garlic-cook for 15 minutes

* Add Stock and bring to boil

* Add bay leaves

* Add hominy-cook for 1 hour at boil

* Add all meats, deboned-cook for 1 hour at simmer

* Add Tomatoes-cook for 30 minutes

* Add reserved roux-cook for 30 minutes being sure to stir frequently and all the way to the bottom of the kettle as the roux has a tendency to settle on the bottom of the kettle and can burn

* Adjust your Burgoo’s flavor with salt and pepper

Voila! You just made Burgoo, one of the great regional dishes of the American South. Like gumbo there are a million variations on ingredients and methods but the above will serve as a good template should you decide to tackle one of the classic dishes of the great state of Kentucky.

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