Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Julia Child's Waterzooi Recipe - well, almost
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 Originally made with fish (perch, preferrably), this dish from the Ghent area of Belgium is now more commonly made with chicken.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
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.
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.
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.
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.