Chicken Booyah

I grew up with chicken booyah. While my family didn't make it, just about everyone else's did. Of unconfirmed Belgian origin, you'll find it in the peninsula of Wisconsin that juts into Lake Michigan and the surrounding area where a concentration of Belgians settled. The easiest way to explain booyah is like this: quarter a couple of stewing chickens and simmer them in a large pot until the meat falls off the bones and the bones break open releasing the marrow and you have at least a gallon of stock. Remove what's left of the bones and add some stewed tomatoes and a shit-ton of seasonal vegetables and let it simmer for the rest of the day and there you go. In reality, the variations are as endless as the families in Northeast Wisconsin who pass down this recipe through the generations, imbuing each family's recipe with a distinct "secret ingredient" that makes it unique. And there doesn't seem to be a recipe that yields less than a couple of gallons. 

My counterpart didn't have the requisite two days for old-timey booyah, but he did have everything else, including several pounds of fresh tomatoes, corn, zucchini, onions, and leek.

He started by cutting the chicken, separating the eating meat from the stock. While stocking the chicken, he also steamed and skinned the tomatoes to create the required perfectly-balanced base of sweet tomatoes and golden chicken fat. This is really the key to booyah - creating a tomato base that still has that golden chicken flavor supporting each other without one dominating the other.


To that, he added the leeks, zucchini, onions, a couple of potatoes, and - because I insisted - green beans. We did have some discussion about this, and I even took to Facebook, inviting my friends from back home to weigh in to try to settle the matter. At the time of this writing, things are actually tied between the green bean lovers and haters. For the record, I can't imagine booyah without them. So, I cleaned them up, and in the pot they went.

He cooked the chicken up separately and once it was on the pot, (along with his own secret ingredient), he left it to simmer for a couple of hours. And, while this is well short of the all-day simmer tradition requires, we still ended up with a large stock pot full of rich, golden. vegetable-y chicken booyah that reminded me of home.