Thursday, March 12, 2015

Flemish Favorites

I’m really pumping out the “B” countries. I’ve done Belize, Belarus, Botswana, Burundi, Bolivia, Bahrain, and now Belgium. I have not done one “D”, “O”, “R”, “Q”, “Y”, or “Z” country yet. (Although, there is only one “O”, “Q”, and “Y” country on my list, so I have a bit of an excuse.) I don't mean to say this to diminish the uniqueness and awesomeness of Belgium in any way, though. It is not only just another "B" country. It is an amazing 11,787 square miles of culture and technology. I just want to focus on all the languages of Belgium for a bit because, as a linguist, that's what fascinates me. Belgium is located between Germanic and Latin Europe, and both their language and cuisine reflects this. They have the best of both worlds and a multilingual population. To reflect this diversity, I tried to include the titles of my recipes in the multiple languages that they are cooked and spoken in. The Flemish population of Flanders in the north makes up about half of the 11.2 million people who call Belgium home. French speaking Wallonia makes up 41% and is located in the south. The eastern part of Wallonia has a German speaking minority. The Belgian dialects of French and Dutch are different from what you would find in France or the Netherlands. I think it is so cool that you can find such diversity in such a small country!

When you think of Belgian cuisine, fries and waffles generally come to mind. I already have plenty of waffle recipes here on my blog, and deep frying anything in my small dorm room kitchen is a no-go. Anyway, I'm sure that your typical Belgian doesn't just gorge on pommes frites and waffles every night for dinner. I decided to ignore the stereotype and search for some more authentic and creative dishes to represent Belgium. It is said that Belgian food is served in the same quantity as German food with the same quality as French food. I certainly thought tonight's food had top notch quality while not skimping out on the meat and potato front.

Waterzooi is a soup served as a main dish that originated in the Flemish town of Ghent. In the past Viszooitje was made with a fresh fish called burbot. When the burbot fish all but disappeared, chicken became the meat of choice. Nowadays you can find either version, but I went down the chicken route. I really enjoyed making the waterzooi because it was not too complicated of a process, and it literally can be on the table in less than an hour. Full of potatoes, chicken, carrots, and leeks with an addition of cream mixed with egg yolks to thicken it up, waterzooi is a satisfying and delightful winter meal.

Kippenwaterzooi/ Waterzooi de Poulet
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 russet potato, peeled
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
½ a large yellow onion, chopped
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter or more oil
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste
¾ cup cream, milk, or half and half
1 egg yolk

Cut the chicken into large chunks. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chicken and brown. Remove the chicken from the pan, add the butter, and allow it to melt. Throw the onion, leeks, and carrot into the pot. Sauté for about 8 minutes so that the veggies are soft but not browned. Cut the potato into disks and then cut the disks in halves to form crescents. Add them to the pot along with the chicken, broth, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, and seasonings to taste. Bring the soup to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Whisk together the cream and egg yolk. Slowly stir in this mixture into the pot. Constantly stir while the soup lightly simmers for 3-4 minutes until it thickens.

Originally I wanted to make my vegetable dish out of Belgian endive or white asparagus. Unfortunately, the grocery store did not stock white asparagus this week, and I am not sure if they ever have endive. Thankfully I could find some brussels sprouts which are actually from the Belgian capital of Brussels.  Although Brussels is located within the Flemish area of Belgium, the city itself is primarily francophone. Maybe that's why I could only find this recipe's name in French.
Choux De Bruxelles A La Flamande
1- 12 ounce package frozen Brussel sprouts
2 tbsp butter or oil
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring ¾ cup of water to a boil in a small pot. Add the Brussel sprouts and boil for 8 minutes. Drain off the water and place the Brussel sprouts in a bowl to cool. Heat the butter over medium high heat in the dried out pot. Add the Brussels and sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until slightly charred. Sprinkle on a little nutmeg and season to taste.


Dinner in Belgium is the main meal of the day, and it almost always consists of a main, vegetable, and some sort of potato dish. You will find even when al else fails, potatoes are still a staple on every Belgian supper table.

Stoemp Met Prei/ Stoemp Aux Poireaux
2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 leeks, washed and dark green parts removed
2 tbsp butter
½ cup chicken broth
2/3 cup half & half, whipping cream, or milk
dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Bring a pot of water to a boil, add the potatoes, and cook for 20 minutes until they are tender. Drain the potatoes and mash them up. Meanwhile, cut the white and light green parts of the leeks into ¼” thick rings. Heat the butter over medium heat in a small pot. Add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the cream, broth, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the leeks from the broth mixture and mash them into the potatoes. Continue to simmer the broth mixture uncovered. Stir constantly until it is thickened. Stir the broth into the potato-leek mash. Place this in a small baking dish, reduce the heat in the oven to 150 degrees, and bake for 2 hours.

My Belgian meal was very yummy and filling. (Potatoes tend to do that for you, and many parts of  Europe are known for its hearty potato fare.) I had actually never had the opportunity to try leeks before, and I found that I hate cleaning them but love eating them. I also loved the simplicity of throwing the waterzooi together as well as the tender chunks of chicken and flavorful veggies. I was originally disappointed when I could not find endive or white asparagus at the store, but the brussel sprouts turned out to be delicious. The potatoes were probably my least favorite part of the meal. They were a bit dry after spending so much time in the oven. It was like eating one of the potatoes at work that has been rotating around the hot box all day. Overall, Belgium was a success! Score for Europe!

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