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What to eat now...

 
 

...from waterzooi to chocolate!

   

 

It's been a rather chilly winter, and we’ve still several weeks to go…so, we say, give in to one of the pleasures of cold weather…food!  Nestled between the beautiful brooding Pas de Calais to the South and Holland to the North, Belgium, or Gallia Belgica as the Romans named it, has developed a remarkably vibrant and syncretic culture.  This dual Galllic and Dutch heritage has been fertile ground for innovative artistic visions, from Flemish painting (one thinks of masters such as van Eyck and van Dyck) with its romantic landscapes and finely-crafted portraits, to the wonderfully avant-garde and cerebral Antwerp Six designers (a list which includes Dries van Noten, Dirk Bikkembergs, Ann Demeulemeester).  Belgium has continued to produce innovative thinkers and artists, and the Belgians are a free-spirited lot, having pulled away and asserted their independence from the Dutch in the mid-nineteenth century.

 


Gentse waterzooi
(image via belgianchocolate)

 

Today Belgians display the same idiosyncratic assertiveness when it comes to their national cuisine.   Take waterzooi, a classic Flemish stew and a national dish of sorts, properly pronounced vatter zoy, from the Flemish zooien, to boil.  Ask five Belgian chefs what constitutes a proper waterzooi and you are likely to receive five different answers!  Waterzooi ŕ la Gantoise, or Gentse waterzooi if you favor the Flemish nomenclatura, (from the eastern seaside city of Ghent) probably originated as a fish dish: some favor perch (others go so far as to insist on using only Belgian perch fished in the North Sea) while others freely use eel, carp or even pike.  Incorporated step-by-step into the broth are vegetables, herbs, eggs, cream, and butter.  The resulting dish: smooth, refined, and delicious.  Seafood is eschewed entirely by some in favor of chicken, a tasty alternative that Julia Child took particular pleasure in preparing!  It’s a wonderful Sunday meal to prepare at home; one can also try an excellent Waterzooi ŕ la Gantoise (with chicken) at Markt in Chelsea.

 

Mussels are another national treasure, cooked in a variety of wine, tomato, or cream sauces, though we tend to favor the traditional moules mariničre—i.e. steamed with onions, shallots, parsley, and white wine.  Petite Abeille, a relaxed brasserie with an excellent selection of Belgian beers and Tintin books, has some of the best mussels in town along with pommes frites with mayonnaise, another Belgian tradition. 

 

And there are the Belgian standards: anguilles au vert (eels in green sauce) and carbonnades flamande (beef stewed in beer and lard).  Accompany your next Belgian culinary outing with that surprisingly delicious alcoholic delicacy—raspberry lambic beer—with, of course, fine Belgian chocolates to end the meal, and toast 2010 with a very Belgian “op uw gezondheid!”

 

 

Eat: Markt

 

Eat: Petite Abeille

 

Cook: Julia Child's waterzooi recipe

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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