Mike's Recipe, Jan. 2012 - Waterzooi
We received a great book for Christmas this year called The Best of American Beer & Food. It's full of cool recipes that utilize and pair with craft beers. I knew I wanted to do a recipe from it for my January New Recipe post, so I got to work flipping through it.
We often have a lot of beer in the fridge and basement here so I wanted to find a recipe that could utilize a beer we already had. The two beers I was most interested in cooking with were Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Weyerbacher Merry Monks' Ale (a tripel). Most of the recipes that called for a stout also involved grilling red meat. I figured I'd save those for the summer, so I ended up going with an intriguing recipe for Waterzooi that called specifically for a tripel-style ale. Merry Monks' would be perfect and its one of our favorite beers.
Honestly, I cooked the entire recipe without ever having heard of or researching what the heck waterzooi is. When we were sitting down to eat it, I finally looked it up in Wikipedia. Interestingly enough, it's a classic Belgian stew. I guess that's why it makes sense to use Belgian style ales with it.
The recipe in the book has a ton of ingredients. I've had problems in the past with trying to multitask too much, so I vowed to prep everything before starting any cooking this time. The result was a relatively smooth cooking experience that took way too long. We didn't end up eating until after 8pm. It took so long because the following list of ingredients all had to be chopped and prepped.
2 pounds of chicken
3 large shallots
3 large leeks
1 large bulb of fennel
2 stalks of celery
2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup flat leaf parsley
As you can imagine, my knife skills aren't that great. I enjoy chopping things and practicing but by the end of this list I was quite frustrated with how slow I was. Heather ended up stepping in and helping me finish by taking care of the herbs. She also made sure I was washing and cleaning all of the ingredients properly, especially the leeks, which are known to hold onto a lot of grit.
Once everything was prepped and waiting on the cutting boards, I finally got to turn the stove on. I used our big pasta pot to make sure that there was plenty of room for this hefty stew (it serves 4-6). The first step was to melt down some butter and olive oil and then brown the chicken. I was not very successful at this as I didn't manage to get any color on the meat. We suspect that, even though the pot I used was nice and tall, the surface area of the bottom wasn't quite big enough to get the quick sear we were looking for. I pressed on though knowing I would just end with a lot of white chicken in the soup as opposed to browned.
The recipe had me add things, cook a little, add some more, cook a little, add a lot, cook for a while. The ingredients that had to go in early were the shallots, leeks, and fennel. I guess those needed some extra cooking time when compared to everything else. The final step was to add everything, including the liquids (chicken stock, beer, and heavy cream), and cook for 25-30 minutes on a simmer. The recipe very specifically called out a simmer over a boil in order to avoid curdling the cream. This stressed me out more than anything else in this recipe.
Because of the word of caution, I very slowly turned the heat up, waiting patiently to see some sign of bubbles. This only extended the cooking time for the dish even more. When the bubbles finally showed up, I set the timer for 30 minutes and walked away. Checking on it every few minutes revealed that it did raise to some pretty intense bubbling. I'm not exactly sure when a simmer stops and a boil begins, but I would bet it was boiling. Thankfully, the cream never curdled, so it was a lot of stress for nothing.
When the 30 minutes finally past, Heather helped me check both the potatoes and carrots to make sure they were cooked through. Both were nice and soft, so we finally got ready to eat. After Heather taste-tested the broth, she realized it needed a vigorous seasoning with salt. This brought up one curiosity. The recipe never called for seasoning. It would have made a lot of sense to at least salt and pepper the chicken while it was cooking early on. I guess an experienced cook would have realized this on their own, so maybe its more of a fault with myself than it is with the book.
After seasoning, the soup was very good. The beer taste in the broth was very mild but it was nice. I loved getting a bit of the fruitiness of the Merry Monks' in the soup and then taking a sip from the snifter to really taste the beer. The pairing was very strong. As I finish righting this, I'm about to have some of the leftovers for lunch.
You just read one of Upstate Crumbs' monthly New Recipe posts. Every month, Mike and Heather will each make a post about a new recipe. For Mike, it will usually be an adventure in trying to learn to cook. For Heather, she'll pick something that is outside of her comfort zone in some way.
Mike on January 22, 2012 at 3:48pm EST