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Uncle Bob’s Derby Day Burgoo

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By Bob Fortunato

Derby Day is approaching and you are going to have some friends over for a party; what to serve? Maybe you don’t want to grill because it is still snowing outside. So, how about a real Kentucky tradition: Burgoo. It probably started as a hunters stew originally containing squirrel, rabbit, venison, turkey or any wild game with a combination of vegetables.

Today it is a celebrated dish served on Derby Day. Burgoo is frequently served at political rallies in the state, at the Kentucky Colonels’ barbecue on the Sunday after Derby Day and at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington. It’s still a stew with a combination of meats and vegetables traditionally cooked in an iron kettle over a wood fire. People would stand over and stir a Burgoo pot all day long.

No two cooks prepare it the same way. In Owensboro they cook it with mutton, beef, and chicken. A good Burgoo should be thick. It should be cooked for hours. If you can still recognize the vegetables, keep cooking. A race horse “Burgoo King,” winner of the 1932 Kentucky Derby and Preakness was named for a famous Lexington Burgoo maker, J.T. Looney. Recommended side dishes with Kentucky Burgoo include Benedictine sandwiches, a variety of cheeses, country ham and biscuits, cornbread, and mint juleps.

Uncle Bob’s Kentucky Burgoo

2 lbs. cubed stewing beef, 2 lbs. pork shoulder (or lamb), 4 lbs. chicken chopped, 8 cups water, 2 cups diced potatoes, 2 cups diced carrots, 2 cups diced onions, 2 green peppers diced, 1 16oz, pkg. frozen lima beans, 1 16oz, pkg. frozen sliced okra, 2 cups chopped cabbage, 2 16oz. cans tomato puree, 2 16oz. cans chopped tomatoes, 2 bay leaves, 4 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce, 1 cup chopped parsley, 2 dried cayenne peppers or 1 Tbs. crushed red peppers.

Put meat in a large soup kettle with salt and black pepper to taste. Add red peppers and water. Let this come to a boil cover with a lid and simmer two hours. Add potatoes, onions, green peppers and carrots to pot and simmer 1/2 hour. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until it thickens to consistency of pea soup. Stir often so it doesn’t scorch Add water if too thick.

Yields 25 servings Enjoy.