Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Around the World with Contessa - Belgium Part Deux

My recent gastronomic adventure to Belgium was really a feast. I really outdid myself this time. And some of you probably never believed when I said that I had to break my Belgium post in two parts. Just be ready to feast your eyes with the food photos below. Take note that B and I consumed them in one night including the belgian waffles on the previous post.  LOL!
As I mentioned in my previous post, Belgium has a lot to offer and their food is just as good as their neighboring countries, France and just as generous as Germany.  When I say generous, they eat in large quantity. I guess that's the reason why B and I consumed all of the food I prepared. We were really feeling like true Belgians on Saturday. HAHA!. I had a hard time deciding on what to make. I felt like I couldn't just pick one particular dish over the other.  

What you need: Two Belgian Endives (wash and pull apart).  Pears cut in cubes and saute in butter until caramelized. Add a little bit of maple or agave syrup. Toast walnuts and chopped finely. Mix walnuts, pear and goat cheese and stuffed in each endive leaf. 
The food pictured above is a Belgian endive stuffed with goat cheese, Korean pear and walnut salad. The salad stuffing is not Belgian though, as the goat cheese is from Spain, pear is from Korea, and walnut has its origin in Eastern Europe. The endive, of course, is deeply rooted in Belgian history. All the endives that are sold in all the supermarkets in the U.S. are imported from Belgium. It has a very tangy flavor to it and can be served fresh, hot or cold.  Not only its tasty, but also high in nutritional value and has one calorie per leaf and zero carbs. Imagine that? 

Moules et Frites (Mussels and Fries)

Moules et Frites are two of Belgium's national dishes. It's just as popular as the Belgian waffles and almost every corner cafes serve them in Belgium. It's also good to know that if ever one of you visits Belgium, Moules et Frites are in season from September and February. 
Frites with my home made mayonnaise. (One room temperature egg yolk, sunflower oil about 1/3 cup, lemon juice, mustard powder and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk (or beat if you have an egg beater) the egg yolk and add drop by drop a little oil to it, which is really critical to creating the emulsion that is the basis of mayonnaise. Keep on whisking and add the remaining ingredients. You'll never buy store bought mayonnaise once you make this. 
Story has it that french fries are actually not a French thing but it originated from Belgium. According to Wikipedia, the poor inhabitants of the region of Liege allegedly had the custom of accompanying their meals with small fried fish, but when the river was frozen and they were unable to fish, they cut potatoes lengthwise and fried them in oil to accompany their meals 
Belgians believe that the term "French" was introduced when American soldiers arrived in Belgium during World War I, and consequently tasted Belgian fries. They supposedly called them "French", as it was the official language of the Belgian Army at that time. How's that for a trivia, huh?


The secret to a really good crispy fries is to soak the potatoes over night or a few hours before frying. Unfortunately, I don't keep a large stock of frying oil at home but it turned out just as good. I still soaked the sliced potatoes in salted water for about 4 hours. Drained and air dried it. I then seasoned it with salt, pepper, and herbes de provence and baked in the 400 degree oven for 15 minutes until golden and crispy. 


The most common method of preparing moules is what they call a la marinere, which consists of white wine, shallots, parsley and butter. Let about 2 cups of good dry white wine come to a boil, add mussels in the pan and cook it until the mussels open up. Once mussels are cooked, take them out, leaving the white wine juice in the pan, mix with 4 tablespoon of butter, shallots, and parley and continue whisking. Season with salt and pepper and pour over the cooked mussels. 

Hmmmm yummy expensive Belgian Beer lol


If Austrians eat Goulash, and the French eat boeuf bourguignon, Belgians have Carbonnade a la Flamande (or beer based beef stew). It's a classic Belgian dish that features three main ingredients, beef, onions, and a good Belgian Beer! It is important to use a really good dark brewed Belgian beer that has a tangy bitter taste to it. It makes a difference to the flavor of the stew. I looked around for recipes as there are many verations to it. One calls for putting an old ginger bread which is covered with whole grain mustard on top of the stew and stirring red currant jelly for that sweet and sour flavor. I would have loved to try those but I had no red currant jelly or ginger bread available at home. I used my pressure cooker again when I cooked this otherwise, I would have been braising for two and half hours:-).
Here is the recipe: About 2 and half lbs of chuck roast cut into 1 or 2 inch pieces. 2 thick slab of bacon. salt. pepper. all spice. 1 tablespoon all purpose flour. beef broth or chicken broth. 1 and one half cup of Belgian beer. apple cider vinegar. bay leaves. dried or fresh thyme. 3 medium yellow onions sliced about 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups)

Season beef with salt and pepper and brown them in batches. Set aside. Fry up the bacon next. Saute onions for 5 to ten minutes until translucent and golden. Sprinkle the all purpose flour and stir together. Add the beef broth, beef, bacon, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper, all spice, beer, and apple cider (if you want the little sweetness to it, add brown sugar or red currant jelly). Stir together. Let it simmer for about 2 and half hours until beef is tender. In my case, I pressured cook this beef for only 20 minutes and it was perfectly tender.

Both B and I were glad on how everything turned out. Our stomach was happy too and I'll be sure to make these again in the future. Now on to the next country...not sure if I can outdo this one!

Bisous, Contessa

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