Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Julia Child's Waterzooi Recipe - well, almost

Making Waterzooi / Belgia kanahautis Waterzooi

Ruth Van Waerebeek describes this famous Belgian dish in her book Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook as "a confusion of a soup with a stew, chock-full of herbs and vegetables". Julia Child names this as 'the most interesting recipe she's clipped'. Originally made with fish (perch, preferrably), this dish from the Ghent area of Belgium is now more commonly made with chicken. The chicken is poached alongside julienne of vegetables in a mixture of stock and vermouth, and thickened at the end with heavy rcream and egg yolks. When researching the recipe, I did come across recipes for waterzooi using lemon juice instead of vermouth, but vermouth - as used by Julia Child - sounded so much better :) Eventually I settled for Julia Child's recipe (available here), but adapting it slightly. We thought it was really delicious and rather elegant, and wouldn't look out of place on a slightly more special dinner party.

Now, I wonder what the most famous Belgian of all times, Hercule Poirot, thought of Waterzooi. :D

I used a packet of chicken fillet strips, but sliced chicken fillets or boneless chicken thighs would work as well. You can obviously play around with vegetables, but leeks and carrots are a must here - one for the flavour, the other for the colour.

Belgian Chicken Stew Waterzooi
Serves 4

Making Waterzooi / Belgia kanahautis Waterzooi

3 large carrots
1 large leek (white and tender green part only)
1 medium sized onion
4 celery ribs/sticks
1 tsp dried tarragon
50 g butter (2 Tbsp)
0.5 tsp salt
450-500 g chicken filet strips (1 pound)
250 ml (1 cup) extra dry vermouth (I used Italian Filipeti)
250 ml (1 cup) light chicken or veal broth
100 ml (just under 1/2 cup) heavy/whipping cream
2 large egg yolks
2 tsp cornstarch
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a large handful of finely chopped fresh parsley

Trim and wash the vegetables. Cut carrots, leek and celery ribs into 4-5 cm (2 inch) julienne matchsticks. Peel and halve the onion, then cut into thin slices.

Making Waterzooi / Belgia kanahautis Waterzooi

Heat the butter in a heavy casserole dish, add the vegetables, half a teaspoonful of salt and dried tarragon. Sauté for about 5 minutes, without browning! Transfer 2/3 of the vegetables into a bowl.

Making Waterzooi / Belgia kanahautis Waterzooi

Layer the sautéed vegetables and chicken strips into the casserole dish in this order, starting from the bottom: a third of vegetables, half of chicken strips, a third of vegetables, half of chicken strips, a third of vegetables. 

Making Waterzooi / Belgia kanahautis Waterzooi

Pour over the vermouth and chicken or veal broth, so the chicken and vegetables are just covered (you may need a bit more broth). Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and chicken cooked through. 

Now strain the cooking liquid into a bowl. Whisk egg yolks, cream and cornflour until combined, then add the hot cooking liquid, spoonful at the time in the beginning ('to temper' the egg yolk mixture). Pour the sauce back into the casserole dish over the chicken and vegetables, stir in most of the parsley and heat until the first bubbles appear. Remove immediately (overheating will cause the egg yolks to curdle).

Divide into hot soup bowls and serve with boiled new potatoes, gnocchi, noodles or good French bread. 


Anonymous said...

This sounds and looks sooo delicious! Can't wait to try this out. Really pretty pics too.

Siri said...

How could I not love a post that mentions two of my favorite people of all time (Julia and Poroit)?!

Anonymous said...

That food looks amazing and very tested.
thanks for the information on this blog! I find it very interesting and entertaining! hopefully soon have updates that I love your post!

Heather said...

This was great! I don't stock vermouth, though, so I subbed in 2/3 white wine and 1/3 Bombay Sapphire. Worked excellently.

Rachel G. said...

I added some extra tarragon, so it came out sweeter than I generally like. But I'll make it again, hopefully for a Belgian who can tell me if I did it right or not. :)

Anonymous said...

Hello. I'm Belgian and this is one of my favourite recipes in our home cooking. Please DO NOT use alcohol in this recipe, especially not things such as vermouth or Bombay Saphire. This is barbaric. You're killing the recipe. If you really want to add a bit of alcohol into that, then do it the Belgian way: use beer! Many of our dishes use beer with stirring and making sauces. With waterzooi, when the meat is getting dry in the pan, pour a bit of beer to avoid burning. Just plain normal lagger will do.

Sarah said...

I made this last night for friends when we had a Belgian-themed evening and it was so tasty. I'd definitely make it again! We had it with fries and then Belgian waffles with chocolate sauce for pudding. Seriously yum! Thanks