Monday, July 9, 2012


This post was inspired by a recent work lunch over at the new Clocktower Brewpub in my neighbourhood. I instantly zeroed-in on the chicken and leek crockpot on the menu, and after a quick chat with the waitress realised that it was most likely a version of the Belgian classic: waterzooi. I was right, and it was an awesome rendition: cheers Clocktower!

This recipe hails from, you guessed it, Suzanne Vandyck's The Food and Cooking of Belgium (my very favourite, and ok, I admit it, my only, Belgian cookbook). There, it is listed as Ghent-style Chicken Stew, Gentse waterzooi, and Waterzooi de poulet à la Gantoise just to cover all the bases. We'll just call it plain old waterzooi and leave it at that.

The dish can be variously described as a thick soup (my preference) or a thin stew (clearly less appetising), and can be made with fish or chicken. I went for the chicken version since my dear girls despise fish in all its forms (although the dish has a farily fishy/chowdery nature about it even in the chicken version, but please don't tell my kids).

A litte research revealed that this famous dish made it all the way to Asterix in Belgium, which is a clear validation of its historical significance. (And for those of you out there who are cycling fans, the "fast runner" in the first panel is Eddy Merckx: one of the greatest things besides beer, chocolate, and great cooking to come from that glorious country.)

ANYWAY, on to the recipe!! I thought it was simple, but when I went to the camera to download the pictures, there were 97 of them to sift through (i.e. not that simple). But it is simple! There's just a lot of chopping to do.

Ok, you'll need a chicken (not shown), several cups of chicken stock (we're talking six to eight cups, so do this on a day you make stock, take what you need, and save the rest for later), a few sprigs of thyme, two bay leaves (homegrown of course), 1 clove, 10 peppercorns, 1 garlic clove, 3 carrots, 2 onions, two leeks (white parts -- i like leeks, so make it 3), 1/4 of a celery root (or some celery), a handfull of small potatoes, 2 eggs (yolks only), 1 cup of whipping cream (YEAH!), salt and pepper of course, and some lemon and parsley for the finishing touches. You'll also want some awesome Belgian beers to keep your motor running...just sayin'.

Ok, dig out a lovely Le Creuset and plunk the chicken in there.

Add the thyme, bay, clove, crushed garlic (crush it first :D), and the peppercorns. Add enough chicken stock to submerge the bird by two thirds.

Bring that glorious melange to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot, and let it simmer gently for about an hour and a half.

While that's going on, get chopping -- you'll need every second (minus music selecting, beer filling, and spontaneous dancing times).

Cut the white parts off your leeks.

I judge how far to cut by when I get to a spot with no dirt in the rings.

Slice the leeks in half lengthwise, then chop finely.

Ditto with the celeriac.

Ditto with the onion.

Ditto with the carrot.

Put all 4 of these cats in a bowl, since they'll go into the pot at the same time.

Cut your spuds into small chunks (I quartered the mini-potatoes they have a Bloblaws).

Submerge the spuds in water to keep them turgid and happy until you need them.

Get a new beer going.

OK! By now your chicken should be done, and your soul should be rockin' to whatever tunes turn your crank.

Remove the chicken to a bowl. (Remember it's easier to pick up via the tailpipe.)

Cover with a lid to keep flies, kids, cats, or over-zealous houseguests out, and let it cool until you can handle chopping it up.

Now, you're going to have a GREAT, but REALLY FATTY broth. YOU MUST GET THE FAT OUT OF THERE. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. I AM NOT KIDDING!! (If you do skip it, the chicken fat will make lakes of yellow glop on top of the soup's cream base, and it will be really, really, unappealing -- just sayin', it's up to you, but DON'T SKIP THIS STEP!!!)

Pour the stock into whatever tall thin tempered glass containers you happen to have on hand. (If you use your Bodum, don't forget to scrub it out before breakfast!). Tall and thin helps make the fat layer thicker and easier to spoon out with a ladle or whatever other scoopy implement you have on hand. I could, of course, use one of those nifty fat separators, but I don't have one because I've never seen one made of anything but plastic -- and you know me and plastic!)

Ok, again! Now you have a gungy Le Creuset that could use a rinse, so let it cool and bit, then rinse it in hot, hot water. Or skip that and just keep going, your call!

Chuck a slab of butter in there, and start softening the leeks, onion, celeriac, and carrot.

While that's going on start stripping your chicken. Discard the skin (or give it to your sweetie pie dog!) and pretty soon you'll have...

...a pile of meat and not much else (except a God-awful mess).

After about ten minutes, your vegetables will be softened enough. Then it's time to add the stock and the spuds. Strain the stock to get any errant peppercorns, herbs, and other flotsam out of there. Let the spuds simmer away for 10 to 15 minutes (you'll still be stripping the chicken, trust me).

Time for the eggs! Separate the egg yolks -- save the whites for Pavlova! :D

Add the cream to the yolks and mix away.

Remove your pot from the heat and slowly stir in the cream and eggs.

Add the chicken, return to the heat, and stir away for about 5 minutes until thickened (but don't let it boil -- you don't want to make an omelette).

Serve with a sprinkle of parsley, a splash of fresh lemon juice, and ...

...a fine beer! Cheers!!!

1 comment:

  1. I will definitely try this one in the cooler weather (say, December). Looks wonderful.