Belgian GP 2018: Waterzooi

Belgium. Always one of the best races of the year. Not only is it the return after the summer break so everyone is raring to go, and the gossip is flying through the paddock, but it is also in BELGIUM. Spa-Francochamps is one of the oldest and most beautiful tracks on the F1 calendar. In the forested hills of the Ardennes, it is pristine and gorgeous. It is also the land of fabulous beer and my husband's heritage. So much to love, so little time. The one thing I know a little less about is the food. 

We had the opportunity to travel through Belgium a few years back, and I have wonderful memories of home cooked meals, frites, waffles, and lots of bread and cheese. But after that my list comes up short. I think I was so focused on being with people I love that I failed to learn about the food or get to know local specialties. Shame on me. I intend to make up for that. Both with a future trip back to Belgium (come on cousins, lets get some weddings on the books!), and also by working my way through my husband's grandmother's cookbooks she left to us. 

Waterzooi

This year I am continuing working through 'Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook' by Ruth Van Waerebeek. Waterzooi and a Salad from the Ardennes made up our dinner for this year's Belgian GP. Waterzooi is a classic Belgian dish, somewhere between a soup and a stew. SImple in its ingredients and execution, but with an interesting addition toward the end of a cream and egg mixture that brings the whole thing together and makes it very distinct. Served with some crusty bread and a light salad, it is a great heartwarming meal. 

We, of course, started the day with Belgian Waffles. Served simply with powdered sugar and sliced strawberries and a nice cup of coffee. Plan for an early morning or a late breakfast because the yeasted dough needs at least an hour to rise and build flavor. 

And in true beer loving fashion, we took the whole weekend to work our way through a few work-of-art beers. To be honest, I am a bonafide IPA fan these days. The hoppier the better, crisp clean clear, or hazy as it can get, fruity and tangy or floral and danky, I love them all. But, coming back to a proper Belgian tripel or quad reminds me what a proper beer tastes like. One that makes you pause, close your eyes, and just hum a little under your breath with a long mmmmmm. 

Speaking of paddock gossip, this time of year is called "silly season" because everyone is suddenly a rumor monger, and they all want to know one thing: which drivers will be racing for which teams in the next F1 Season. The summer break brought some serious drama with Ricciardo's announcement that he will be leaving Red Bull for Renault for 2019. This really shook things up and has led to out and out chaos in the driver market. Alonso also announced his official retirement at the end of the season leaving room in the Maclaren team roster, and there are some serious rumors that Raikonnen may be on his way out as well, with the young hotshot Leclerc taking his seat at Ferrari. Generally, all this feels a little, well, silly. But, this year there are so many possible moves, and a very solid set of midfield teams for drivers to move around within, which is making the drama feel a little less silly, and a little more exciting! 

Waterzooi Chicken

 

Waterzooi of Chicken

Gentse Waterzooi van Kip
Waterzooi de Poulet a la Gantoise

From Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook by Ruth Van Waerebeek

1 (3 -4 lb) whole chickens
salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4 -6 cups chicken broth
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
5 medium leeks, rinsed well, white parts only, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2 medium celery ribs, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
4 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
1⁄2 cup minced fresh parsley

1. Remove excess fat from chicken cavity. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Place 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon thyme in cavity. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Melt butter in a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent (but not browned); about 5 minutes.

Place the chicken, breast side up, in the Dutch oven, on top of the onions. Add chicken broth to mostly cover the chicken (by about two-thirds). Cover and simmer gently over low heat for 30 minutes.

3. Skim the surface to remove any foam and any fat that has risen. Add the carrots, leeks, and celery. Add the remaining parsley sprigs, thyme and bay leaf. Cover, and adjust heat to maintain a slow simmer for another 30 minutes.

4. Add the potatoes and continue to simmer until potatoes are done and chicken is very tender, about 20 or 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

5. Remove chicken and transfer to a large plate. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove parsley and bay leaves from broth. Let the chicken rest until it is cool enough to handle, then use your fingers to remove the skin and meat from the bones. (Set skin and bones aside for future use ie making more broth.) Continue to use your fingers to shred the meat into bite-sized pieces.

6. Place Dutch oven back over medium heat. Meanwhile, beat the cream and the egg yolks together in a bowl. Now, take a ladleful of hot broth and slowly add to the egg yolk mixture, while stirring. This tempers the yolks. Then, slowly stir the tempered egg yolk mixture into the larger pot of broth and vegetables. Do not allow to boil or the egg yolks might curdle. Add the chicken. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

7. Serve in bowls, with a hearty loaf of hand-sliced bread.