Archive | 4:04 pm

Gentse Waterzooi (chicken stew from Ghent)

6 Jul

If chicken ‘n dumplings had a Belgian cousin, it would surely be “waterzooi”. While waterzooi doesn’t come with puffy buttermilk dumplings, it ranks just a high on the creamy comfort food scale. Once you sop a piece of crusty French bread in its yolky broth, you’ll understand why this dish became a National treasure.

Translated from Dutch, ‘waterzooi’ means ‘to simmer in water’… The dish was historically nothing fancier than a simple fish boil with readily available fish like cod & perch, and potatoes. As rivers and ponds became more polluted and fish populations diminished, chicken made its debut in this classic charmer.

Today, the city of Ghent reigns unchallenged in waterzooi-land. Located in the Northwest corner of Belgium and only a short drive away from the North Sea, Ghent has placed waterzooi on the culinary map. Hundreds of restaurants each boast their own variation of the dish, all vying for the attention of the oodles of tourists that roam this picturesque city in search of waterzooi.

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GENTSE WATERZOOI
(Adapted from a recipe by ‘Restaurant De Karmeliet’)

– 1 whole chicken, quartered
– 3 stalks of celery
– 1 leek
– 3 carrots
– 6 firm potatoes (like Yukon Gold)
– 1 bunch of parsley
– 2-3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
– 6-8 cups of chicken stock
– 2 tbsp of butter
– salt & pepper, to taste

Heat chicken stock and add chicken, let simmer for approx. 20-30 min on a low-medium fire until the chicken is done. Set aside.

Cut celery, carrot and leek into very fine strips (‘julienne’). Dice potatoes into rough chunks.
Take a large enough pan so all the broth and chicken will eventually fit, and sauté the vegetables and the potatoes in 1-2 tbsp of butter over medium heat.

In the meantime, take chicken out of the stock and peel off the skin, discard the skin.

Add peeled chicken to the vegetables & potatoes. Sift the stock to eliminate any impurities the chicken left behind, and add to pot with chicken, vegetables and potatoes.

Add 2/3 of the cream into the pot, and simmer another 10-15 min. Season with salt & pepper, to your liking.

In a separate bowl, add remaining cream and 2 egg yolks. Whisk together and gently add a bit of the hot broth one spoon at a time. This is called ‘tempering’. Keep whisking as you introduce the broth, to make sure your egg mixture won’t scramble. Keep adding broth until you reach a warm temperature. When the egg mixture is warm, take pot off the stove and gently drizzle and stir the egg mixture in the pot.

Ladle in shallow soup bowls, and sprinkle chopped parsley & thyme leaves over the top. Make sure to serve some French bread on the side, as the broth will have you yearning for more!

Wickedly Zesty Pickled Peppers

6 Jul

A few weeks ago, I came across food porn an inviting recipe from Deb Perlman at Smitten Kitchen for pickled vegetables. It looked so colorful and beckoning. In my giddy foodie enthusiasm, I sent it to my good friend Jolene, who would sell her left kidney for a pickle , and I pledged to make it that day. And then I forgot about it. Until today, when I noticed that a handful of bell peppers in my refrigerator had sadly abandoned the freshness club.

As I mentioned in my homemade mustard post earlier, something pickled of any sort makes a frequent appearance on any Belgian farmer’s table. Pickles are often served alongside cubes of farmers’ cheese (boerekaas) or Gouda, pâté, hunks of grainy brown bread and a Trappist beer. So when I stumbled upon Deb’s pickled vegetable recipe, it spoke seductively to my Belgian heart. There’s something magical that happens to your tastebuds when vinegary crunch and Gouda meet.

Deb’s recipe is a winner ‘as is’, but I didn’t have all the vegetables on hand and I also wasn’t particularly enthused by the idea of pickled sugar snap peas. In short, I took her recipe and ran with it… I added a few extra flavor components, like fennel seed and crushed red peppers for extra wickedness, and added a red onion & some garlic for oomph.

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WICKEDLY ZESTY PICKLED PEPPERS – makes approx. two 16oz jars.
(Adapted from a recipe by Smitten Kitchen)

– 1 red bell pepper
– 1 yellow bell pepper
– 1 orange bell pepper
– 1/2 of a red onion
– 1 large carrot
– 2 whole cloves of garlic
– 1 cup of distilled white vinegar
– 4 tbsp of white sugar
– 2 tbsp of salt
– 1/2 tbsp of fennel seed
– 1 tbsp of yellow mustard seed
– 1 tbsp of black pepper corns
– 1/2 tbsp of celery seed
– 1-2 tbsp of crushed red pepper, depending on how much bite you prefer.

“Julienne” all vegetables (except cloves of garlic) and set aside. If you have a mandolin slicer with a julienne blade, great! If you don’t have a mandolin slicer, try to finely slice your vegetables into thin strips as even in size as possible. (* if your mandolin is as angry as mine is, you may want to keep some band aids around)

In a small non-reactive sauce pan, heat vinegar, sugar, salt and all spices until sugar & salt dissolve only. Add water and stir. Let cool to lukewarm.

Place 1 clove of garlic in each glass (or non-reactive) jar.Divide sliced vegetables over jars, and gently pour vinegar mixture over the vegetables until completely submerged. You want to make sure the spices are more or less evenly divided over each jar as well.
Put the jars in the fridge and let the pickling feast begin. They will be pleasantly zesty in about 2 hours, and will continue to pickle a bit more over time. However, the flavor won’t change much from the first 2-4 hours of pickling. Provided you keep the peppers submerged in the vinegar at all times, they should last in your fridge for about 1 month.

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