Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chicken Booyah

Booyah is a regional chicken soup, likely brought over from Belgium with the numerous immigrants who settled in this area over a century ago.  There is much lore about how this hearty soup obtained its name, including theories that it stems from some poor soul having misunderstood the French word "bouillon", which would make sense to me because the broth is what makes it so intensely flavorful.  Traditionally, the soup is made in enormous batches in a giant barrel, and simmered for several hours (days, in many cases) over an open outdoor fire.  Usually, there are many people tending to the soup, tossing this and that into it, because every respectable individual (and some not so respectable individuals) has their own much loved family version of what Booyah should be, which is just one of the many things that makes it special - usually, too many cooks ruin the pot, but  in the case of Booyah, it only gets better.  I can just imagine the immigrants of years ago bringing what they had to offer along with them to some sort of festival; some farmers brought beef, a few brought chickens, some brought pork, others brought various vegetables, and yet others brought the herbs.  Together, they added what they had to offer to the pot, enjoyed the delicious results with one another, and this soup has been a regional favorite at church picnics, fundraisers, family reunions, festivals and parties of all kinds ever since.

There is no real science or one specific recipe to Booyah making, but there are a few rules to which we must adhere to maintain the authentic flavor.  First, there must be at least one other meat in addition to the chicken and stock; beef, oxen, pork, or a combination of any of those will suffice (I've even had it with turtle, but I'm not talking about that).  Second, it needs to simmer for a very long time. Third, there must be tomatoes.  Fourth, it needs salt (not a pinch or a few sprinkles, but salt).

It is tricky to reproduce the same results at home, and while it's literally impossible without the gear and the time, we can come pretty close.  I think so much of the flavor comes from the long simmering time over an open fire.  Who has days to simmer a soup at home?  I sure don't.  But, that is where the crock pot fits into the home equation.  Traditionally, the stock is never cooled, the bones never removed, and the fat is only skimmed from the top as it cooks.  At my house, I use my own homemade, usually frozen, chicken stock (which I do skim) and deboned meat.  Instead of making the stock specifically for Booyah by adding beef and/or pork bones to  the chicken stock, I often use the leftover juice and meat from a pot roast (which has already been stewed long enough to have substantial flavor). By doing this, I still get the flavor I need without having to specifically buy anything extra, and I get to use leftovers in a most delicious manner.  Or, if I've got homemade beef stock on hand (along with some of the meat), I will use that instead.  In this recipe, you would just need about 1 cup of beef juices/broth with about 1/2 cup of meat.  However, if you want to make your own Booyah stock, use the recipe for Chicken Stock, but add 1 1/2 lbs meaty beef bones plus a little more water to cover in with the chicken; you will use all the liquid and meat from that stock for this soup. 

To aid in achieving the earthy, smoky flavor obtained by cooking the soup over an open fire, I use fire roasted tomatoes.  It's easy enough to roast your own tomatoes on the grill for several minutes in the same manner as you would roast bell peppers, but if you don't want to, you can use a jar of fire roasted tomatoes.

This soup is quite hearty, and it really only needs some nice, warm homemade bread (or just some oyster crackers, which is how it is usually served) and maybe a piece of pie to round out the meal.  As far as beverages, an ice cold beer is the best.

Out of sheer curiosity, I posted a question on The Art of Cooking Real Food's Facebook page about how many of my readers had ever heard of Booyah before.  If you've got the time, and feel so inclined, please bounce over there to answer the question.  Thanks!

Chicken Booyah
serves 8-10

  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 3 c cooked chicken (from stock)
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 c cooked beef (either from the stock, or left over pot roast)

**Or, see note about Booyah Stock**

  • 1 c onions, diced
  • 1 c peas (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 c corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 c green beans (fresh, cut into 1" pieces, or frozen)
  • 1 c carrots, diced
  • 1 c potato, diced
  • 1/2 c celery, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 lb fire roasted tomatoes (homemade or use a 15 oz jar), diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Combine stocks, chicken, beef,  vegetables through the tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper in a 6 quart slow cooker.

Place the rosemary, thyme, sage, and crushed red pepper on a piece of cheesecloth.

Tie it well, and toss it into the slow cooker.

Cook on low for at least 8 hours, or on high at least 5 hours.

**Note - to make your own Booyah stock specific to this soup, use the recipe for Chicken Stock, but add 1 1/2 lbs meaty beef bones plus a little more water to cover in with the chicken; you will use all the liquid and meat from that stock for this soup. 


  1. Wow, I've never heard of Chicken Booyah, but it looks and sounds delicious. Very interesting post! :)

    1. its very cool..i grew up with it. Worth the wait

  2. I love the history behind this soup. I could see where it would be very difficult to reproduce at home, but you've done a terrific job. The soup looks fantastic!

  3. That is such a fantastic soup! I love the concept of "making it together"... It must be hard to recreate at home... great post!!! :-)

  4. This looks terrific! I like that you had all the spices in a boquet garni bag - nicely done! Thanks for sharing the history of the dish, too!

  5. Yummy, I am going to add this one to my arsenal of soups for winter. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I grew up with it too. Every year the firemen would have a picnic in the park behind my house and set up 3 or 4 different batches of the stuff early the night before. The whole neighborhood smelled so good the next morning. But you had to make sure you got there right away with your ice cream bucket to take it home in or it would be all gone. Now I live in Arizona and miss it so much. Great that I found a recipe for a small batch.


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