BELGIAN WATERZOOI OF CHICKEN (for four)
“Waterzooi is the most famous Belgian dish…..a fine, rich and improbably light masterpiece of ordinary, rich ingredients blended with a modest mastery, a very Belgian achievement. Actually, waterzooi is Flemish, and I am told that in Flemish it means literally a water stew, combining water with a form of the verb ziedem, to seeth. There are three kinds of waterzooi, with fish, with rabbit and with chicken. All of them are midway between soup and stew — and served in soup bowls. Ghent is the home of chicken waterzooi, my favorite.” Raymond Sokolov, The Cook’s Cannon
1 stewing or roasting chicken (3 to 4 pounds)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
3 or 4 sprigs fresh parsley
2 large sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
4 to 6 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade, or water
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rounds
5 medium leeks, white parts only, rinsed well and sliced into ½ inch rounds
2 medium ribs celery, sliced into ½ inch rounds
4 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
½ cup minced fresh parsley or chervil, for garnish
1. Pull away and discard any excess fat from the cavity. Rinse the bird inside and out. Season with salt and pepper and place 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs parsley an 1 sprig thyme in the chicken’s cavity.
2. Melt the butter in a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Place the bird, breast side up, in the Dutch oven and add enough chicken broth or water (or half water and half chicken broth) to partially cover the chicken (by about two thirds). Cover and simmer gently over low heat for 30 minutes.
3. Skim the surface of the broth to remove any foam and fat. Add the carrots, leeks and celery to the pot. Tie the remaining thyme, parsley and bay leaf together with kitchen string to make a bouquet garni and add it to the broth. Cover and regulate the heat to maintain the liquid at a slow simmer for another 30 minutes.
4. Add the cubed potatoes to the simmering chicken broth and cook until the potatoes are done and the chicken is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Remove the chicken from the broth and transfer to a large plate. Discard the bouquet garni. Allow the chicken to rest until it is cool enough to handle. Strip off the skin and use your fingers to remove the meat from the bones. Discard the skin and bones and shred the meat into bite sized pieces.
6. Beat the cream and egg yolks together in a mixing bowl. Place the Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir a ladleful of hot broth into the egg mixture to temper it, then gradually stir this mixture into the broth and vegetables. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until the sauce thickens. Do not allow to boil or the sauce will curdle. Return the chicken pieces to the broth. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Garnish with plenty of fresh chopped parsley or chervil.
7. Serve in heated bowls, making sure that everyone gets equal amounts of chicken, vegetables and broth.
NOTE: Waterzooi can be prepared almost entirely in advance and, as with other stews or ragouts, the delicate flavors of this broth are enhanced by sitting overnight in the refrigerator. The day before you plan to serve the dish, prepare the recipe through step 5. Let cool completely and refrigerate the broth and vegetables separately from the chicken. The following day, before serving, reheat the chicken in the broth. Prepare the egg yolk a nd cream mixture and proceed with the last steps of the recipe (the chicken can remain in the broth).
from Ruth Van Waerebeek, Everybody Eats Well In Belgium Cookbook