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Gentse Waterzooi

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ChrisFlanders View Drop Down
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    Posted: 26 April 2012 at 07:07

Gentse waterzooi

This is a very ancient recipe and name (waterzooi), very popular in my country and as the name suggests, it's originally from the city of Gent. In ancient times, this recipe was made with riverfish. When rivers started to get polluted, they switched to chicken to prepare this dish. It's one of my favorites. It may look like a soup, but in fact it is a complete meal and very suited to serve in bistros, brasseries and of course at home when inviting friends. It will appear mostly on deep soup plates. I prefer to serve it in a bowl. The whole dish is made in two steps, in which you'll need two batches of vegetables, a mirepoix to make the chickenstock and another batch of the same vegetables, cut more nicely into cubes (brunoise) or sticks (julienne) for serving.

A. Step 1; Make a nice chickenstock; you can use a whole chicken or even whole chickenlegs only or whatever you prefer. Put the chicken in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring quickly to a boil and let cook for one minute. Discart the water which is now cloudy and full of impurities. Rinse the pot ànd the chicken under cold water to remove the remaining impurities. Start again; chicken in the pot, cover with cold water, add mirepoix (chunky cuts) of onion, celery, carrot, the greener part of leeks, parsley stalks, 2 cloves, handful of all-spice berries, laurel,... let simmer for around 90 minutes or until the chicken is soft (test with the point of a knife, it has to get through easily). Sieve the stock and preserve, remove and discart the skin of the chicken, remove the meat from the chicken and tear it in not too small chunks. I cut it in bitesize chunks because I prefer to serve it in a large bowl.

Meanwhile, in another pot, peel and cook some potatoes.

B. Step 2; Finishing the dish; carefully cut another batch of carrot, white celery, the white part of the leeks, onion into nice equal but small cubes and/or little sticks as you prefer. Take another large cooking pot, add some butter and sweat the vegetables for at least 5 minutes on low fire. Let them get somewhat translucent but absolutely not colored. Add stock, as much as needed to serve your guests. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes, which is the time to soften the vegetables but don't cook them too soft, leave a little bite (al dente). Add the chunks of chicken to warm through, add a good dash of cream and gently stir in. Bring to a very gentle simmer. Now prepare a "liaison"; whisk 2 eggsyolks and around half a cup of cream into what is called a liaison. Add and stir into the cooking pot but don't let it boil or you're in trouble! Take from the fire and let rest somewhat and check seasoning. The liaison will thicken the sauce a bit but will also give a nice yellow color and glossy touch to the sauce and will provide a velvety taste. Add a little chopped parsley to taste. Serve and add a whole cooked potato when serving on plates, or like I do, cut the potato in small cubes and add to the bowl.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 April 2012 at 09:46
chris, looking at ths timeless recipe and your pictures, i am falling more and more in love with it. it reminds me a little of a spanish chicken stew called guiso de pollo:
 
 
and i find myself wondering if the intertwined histories of iberia and the low countries might have something to do with the similarities, or if it is just a coincidence brought about by a naturally-instinctive way to make prepare a wonderful, satisfying meal.
 
i'll definitely be preparing this as soon as i can, probably the next grey, rainy day. i might go ahead and use some of our local, freshwater fish, if i can; if that is the case, are there any modifications that you would recommend, or should i prepare it as described above? as for fish, would it be better to stick to the white, firm-fleshed varieties such as pike or perch, or would species such as salmonids (trout) be a better choice?
 
thanks for such a quintessential low-countries dish!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 April 2012 at 16:19
There are so many cultures that have a similar approach.
 
The Hungarian Kalarabeleves, for example, uses the same sort of two-step process, with only the vegetable component changing; in this case, kohlrabi is mixed with the chicken and thickened with a liaison.
 
What I find interesting is how many of them are, essentially, chicken & veggie soups.
 
Chris: Do you know anyone still making this soup with fish? Seems to me it would be a perfect mating of ingredients.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 April 2012 at 16:50
Waterzooi = boiled water? Or am I mis-translating that?

It looks really tasty, I love the vibrant yellow color.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melissa Mead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 April 2012 at 18:50
Where do you find white celery? I love it, but I've only had it once, in Amish country.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisFlanders Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 April 2012 at 03:08

Ron & Brook, it is a historical fact that Spain and Flanders had some culinary exchanges as the Spanish occupied our country in a long forgotten past but waterzooi dates from the Middle-Ages or earlier, long before our Spanish friends invited themselves over here. There was still abundant salmon and other fish in our rivers. Not exactly sort of riverfish but oysters were poor people's food in those days! There's also a dish that I'd like to make which is similar but with seafish; marmite Dieppoise, french dish from the region of Dieppe. And isn't your american chowder not a little similar too?

Nowadays there are restaurants making this dish with riverfish again, but of course with a modern twist. If I had easier access to pike, trout, the occasional river salmon, etc. I would certainly try that, preferably a mix of those fishes, which would probably have been the more original version of this dish! What I would do is to make also the same chickenstock as discribed, but I would add to the stock; two bruised lemongrass sticks, a few kaffirleaves, lemon zeste and the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of coriander seeds. These additions will balance the fishdish much better (and the chicken in the stock will taste fantastic too!). Then sieve etc. and save the chicken for another recipe. Then I would cut the fishfillets in small chunks and poach them in the chickenstock. When using a mix of different fishes, I would poach the different kinds of fish seperately, one after another in the same stock, as they require different cooking time. Then, build the dish exactly the same way I discibed in the opening post, using the chickenstock in which the fish is poached.

I would never use a fishstock for making this recipe, simply because fishstock soons turns bitter and taste awfully fishy in its worst sense when cooked too long. Many modern recipes use chickenstock to poach fish in as it can cook longer and keeps gaining taste when cooked for a long time, exactly the opposite as fishstock delivers. Fishstock is good for sauces with a very short cooking time imo.

Hey Mike, I'm not sure either what "zooi" means exactly, it's an ancient word, but my guess would be that it's somewhat like the frequently used word "zootje" that is often used in Holland. It means a "mess" but in a kind way. Vibrant yellow, yes but, I'll tell you a little secret about the pictures. When I was making the first picture, I thought I forgot something. Indeed, the liaison was missing! Not a big deal as such but I reheated the preparation and then added the liaison. Don't know if anyone has noticed, but you can clearly see the difference of color between the two pictures. Also, yesterday I wrote that a liaison uses whole eggs and cream, which is incorrect. I adjusted today; it's definately only eggyolks and cream, hence the nice yellow color in the second picture. Hahaha!

Melissa, here in Belgium every supermarket offers the green and the white celery. The white one is kind of "bleached", as in deprived of light. It tastes much softer and a little sweeter than the green one, but they are basically the same. The same "bleaching" procedure is used on white asparagus and belgian endives.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 April 2012 at 04:24
Ya know, that went right past me. But you're right, Chris---it does resemble seafood and fish chowders. I'm not familiar with any American versions that use a liaison to bind them, but that's a minor point.
 
@Melissa. Although it shouldn't really matter in this dish, if you'd like to approximate white celery, merely use a vegetable peeler and skin the outer layer of the green stalks. That will produce a milder, more tender celery.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pitrow Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 April 2012 at 09:04
Originally posted by ChrisBelgium ChrisBelgium wrote:

Hey Mike, I'm not sure either what "zooi" means exactly, it's an ancient word, but my guess would be that it's somewhat like the frequently used word "zootje" that is often used in Holland. It means a "mess" but in a kind way. Vibrant yellow, yes but, I'll tell you a little secret about the pictures. When I was making the first picture, I thought I forgot something. Indeed, the liaison was missing! Not a big deal as such but I reheated the preparation and then added the liaison. Don't know if anyone has noticed, but you can clearly see the difference of color between the two pictures. Also, yesterday I wrote that a liaison uses whole eggs and cream, which is incorrect. I adjusted today; it's definately only eggyolks and cream, hence the nice yellow color in the second picture. Hahaha!

haha, when I put zooi into google translate, it comes back as "shit". Definitely not the correct translation, at least in this sense. I thought I had seen zooi used in one of my Oma's old cookbooks in the context of boiling something, but now I can't find it, so I'm probably not remembering it correctly. I think your explanation of it being similar to zootje is probably correct. I did notice the difference in color of the pictures yesterday, but I thought maybe it had to do with the angle of the camera or something.
Mike
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melissa Mead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 April 2012 at 20:01
I do tend to take the darker bits off my celery.

They sell white asparagus around here. I wonder why they don't do white celery?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 April 2012 at 03:23
Probably because the celebrity chefs haven't discovered it yet.
 
You just wait until Emeril starts touting white celery, though. Won't be two years before it's in every supermarket.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melissa Mead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 April 2012 at 08:19
Anyone got the Food Network's address? "Hey Alton, I've got a Secret Ingredient for you..." ;)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisFlanders Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 April 2012 at 08:24

Melissa, you could also use celeriac cut in julienne as a good alternative for white celery, given you can find celeriac of course.

Green celery is mostly used in soups and bouillons (stocks) over here, it is so much more stronger than the white one. The white celery is quite mild and can be used to be eaten as such, even raw; there are some recipes for side dishes, like white celery cut in chunks, boiled until soft, then served in a béchamel sauce. Perfect companion for a pork roast and many other dishes.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Melissa Mead Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 April 2012 at 08:45
I like it just for munching on.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ChrisFlanders Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 April 2012 at 08:56
And how about putting a stick of white celery in a Bloody Mary!
So, if you like to add a few ideas, you're very wellcome, Melissa.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2013 at 13:10
I noticed a lot of similarities to this dish as I was reviewing my notes for bergensk fisksuppe:
 
 
I decided to bring this one up to the top in order to re-acquaint members with a beautiful-looking Dutch meal.
 
The only real difference is that I see the traditional waterzooi is prepared with river fish, while the Norwegian fiskesuppe calls for ocean fish. So, I will make the Noweigan dish as soon as I am able to, and then I will endeavour to make waterzooi sometime this spring, when I do some fishing in our beautiful fresh Montana waters ~ Tongue 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2013 at 14:34
Might work especially well with some of the by-catch, such as whitefish, Ron.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2013 at 14:37
I smoked a whitefish once, just to see what would happen; ever since then, I've been a believer.
 
Besides, if memory serves, the ones around here are somehow related to trout, so they can't be too bad ~ Tongue
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2013 at 14:44
Well, not actually related, Ron. But they live in the same water and eat the same food, and put up the same kind of fight on a flyrod.
 
So, if it quacks like a duck....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2013 at 15:00
well, i went and had to look it up - something stuck in the far recesses of my head about one of the fins being an indicator that they were related, so i checked montana's fish, wildlife and parks field guide:
 
 
the ones i catch here in my area are lake whitefish, as opposed to mountain whitefish found in the western half of the state; ironically, they are found here in the milk river, whcih begins in the mountains of glacier park. in any case, both lake and mountain whitefish were indeed shown as distantly related to trout, but i wanted to be sure, so i checked the species name in wikipedia:
 
 
it looks like they are in the same order (salmoniformes) and family (salmonidae), but of course different genuses (genni?) and species; same story with grayling, which i'd really like to try one of these days as well - the grayling's scientific name (thymallus arcticus) is interesting to me ~
 
so, they are not quite kissing cousins, but the relationship is close compared to other fish such as pike, catfish etc. whether it has any practical significance is a mystery to me ~
 
edit - aha! i looked this up too: not genuses or genni, but genera....
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote HistoricFoodie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 February 2013 at 18:12
Grayling are arguably the prettiest fish that swims in freshwater, Ron. Arctic char runs them a close second. And they're a ball to catch.
 
Our surviving native is the Michigan grayling, which has been transplanted to wilderness lakes in Montana.
 
Unfortunately, many of them are rather infertile lakes, to begin with. And get little fishing pressure as well. The result: Stunted fish.
 
Friend Wife and I fished for them once in the Pioneer Mountains. Initially we didn't realize what they were, because what turned out to be a large school of small fish looked like detritus on the bottom. Toss out a fly and this cloud rose from the bottom. The biggest was, oh, maybe four inches. Got to be a thing to see if we could get the fly back without catching one.
 
Fishing for them in Sweden, however, was a whole nuther thing. That gorgeous dorsal fin, fantastic coloring, and fish running 14-18 inches.
 
I'm told they're a great eating fish as well, but I never had the opportunity of trying them on the table.
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