Coronavirus Comfort Food

Post Date: March 30th, 2020

Comfort food was the featured topic in the food section of last week’s local paper. Who doesn’t need some comfort food during the coronavirus pandemic?

My daughter, a registered nurse, works as a charge nurse of the operating room at one of the largest medical centers in Wisconsin. It is an especially challenging time, and she feels a certain grim inevitability about contracting the virus. Accordingly, she and her husband are socially distancing themselves from us because my husband and I are over age 60 (albeit healthy). This is hard on all four of us.

So making comfort food we all love is definitely indicated. One of the suggestions in the newspaper that caught my eye was booyah.

Booyah is a Belgian soup. I have long thought its name is an Americanized version of the French words bouillon or “bouilla” as in bouillabaisse. It’s made from two different long-simmering bone broths, most commonly chicken and beef. The broths are eventually combined and simmered for an even lengthier period of time. Then a plethora of vegetables is added.

Green Bay was settled in part by Belgians, including Walloons (French-speaking Belgians). Everyone from Green Bay knows booyah. Chicken booyah is sold by the quart or gallon at every church picnic during the summer. A booyah chef cooks it outside over a fire in a large barrel that he stirs with a boat oar. Each chef has his own version of booyah and the recipes are usually kept secret. But my aunt finagled one and made it every Fourth of July for her extended family – about 75 people. Her only requirement was that each of us bring our own bowl.

I tweaked her recipe and reduced amounts for serving a much smaller group. I’ve served it since our daughter was ten years old. Just the smell of it brings back good memories for her. She deserves a kettle full during this crisis. All of our nurses, doctors and other health professionals do. And what better time to embark on a lengthy cooking adventure? Booyah can be made in one day, but it’s better made in two.

So here’s my recipe. Start the beef broth first as it cooks 1-2 hours longer than the chicken broth.


Beef Broth:


  • 3 lbs. beef bones (oxtails, neck bones, knuckle bones and/or short ribs)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1½ Tbsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Parsley sprigs with stems
  • Dash of white vinegar


  1. Put bones in 10-qt. kettle. Cover with water to 2-3 inches above them.
  2. Bring to a boil, and skim and discard scum.
  3. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer uncovered for 3-4 hours.
  4. Strain, reserving bones. Remove any meat from bones and save with the chicken meat in a medium-large bowl. Refrigerate the meats.

Chicken Broth:


  • 5-6 lb. stewing (or roasting) chicken
  • 1 large onion
  • ¼ bunch celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Parsley sprigs with stems
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. each: marjoram, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme


  1. Put chicken in 10-12 qt. kettle. Cover with water to 2-3 inches above it.
  2. Bring to a boil, and skim and discard scum.
  3. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer uncovered for 2 hours.
  4. Remove chicken. Skin and bone, reserving bones and discarding skin. Tear chicken into pieces and save in a medium-large bowl. Strain broth.
  5. Combine the two broths, adding back all the bones. Simmer uncovered for 6+ hours. Strain. Combined broth may remain unrefrigerated overnight.

DAY 2, 1¼ hours before serving time


  • Combined broth
  • 1 Tbsp. MSG (Accent)

  • 1 15-oz. can navy beans, undrained
  • ¾ bunch of celery, chopped
  • 1 lb. carrots, chopped
  • 1 large and 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 lbs. potatoes, cubed (with their water if prepped ahead of time)
  • ½ medium-size green cabbage, chopped
  • 5 oz. frozen peas
  • 5 oz. frozen corn
  • 5 oz. frozen green beans


  1. Add MSG to the broth. Bring the broth to a boil and rapidly simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the next set of ingredients as well as the saved chicken and beef meats. Bring back to a boil and rapidly simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  3. Serve with oyster crackers.

     Leftover booyah can be refrigerated for about a week.