Waterzooi! Gesundheit! Belgian Fish Stew

waterzooi
Waterzooi, a Belgian fish soup with leeks, carrots, wine and eggs
Other countries name their soups really cool names. Or maybe it’s just the language thing.  My current example is Waterzooi– a Belgian soup with Flemish roots.  It’s origin in the East or West Flanders region of Belgium determines whether it’s made with fish or chicken.
 
I opted to go with fish to diversify this week’s protein and therefore today’s recipe is Gentse Waterzooi van Tarbot, or Ghent style Turbot stew.  Because Ghent was, and is tied to the sea, and meat was somewhat of a rarity in East Flanders centuries ago, this soup is chock full of chopped fish. Belgians are pretty passionate about their soup and exactly what kind of fish should be used is often the topic of healthy debate.  A very interesting article in the New York Times notes that purists will contend that a fish waterzooi should be based on Belgian perch, and perch alone. Others say that a good fish waterzooi will have eel, carp and pike along with perch. Still others will say that waterzooi should reflect all of Belgium and be a melange of perch, turbot, St. Pierre, mussels, crayfish and gray shrimp.  While all sounded good, I figured it’d be pretty hard to find eel, and if I did manage to find it, emotional trauma might ensue (I hate snakes…and all things slithery).  Therefore, the recipe I used I adopted from Saveur magazine which recommended using halibut, but I really think any white fish would work.
 
waterzooi

The element that makes this soup different that any other type of soup I’ve ever made is that it uses egg yolks to add to the creaminess.  By tempering the eggs, when blended when cream (or in my case, 2% milk), the broth is deliciously smooth without the heaviness that would come from a cream-only base.  Interesting approach, methinks.

 

waterzooi

The vegetable base had me once again using leeks. I swear, since starting this project a month ago, I’ve never eaten so many leeks and I honestly didn’t’ know what I was missing. I’m a leek convert!  As for the rest of the veggies, it lends itself to variation the way that American-style chicken soup does: carrots, potatoes, peas, celery- whatever floats your boat.  I think that fish stock would be the best and significantly add to the flavor, and luckily I had some lobster stock in the freezer from my Lobster Chowder, so I just used that.  However, if you don’t have any fish or seafood based stock, chicken would work just as well. Anything, in my opinion, is better than using water alone.

waterzooi

The most time consuming aspect of this recipe is the prep- chopping all the veggies. Once that’s done, the soup itself takes about 30 minutes.

I also ate it with a very simple Belgian endive salad, not pictured, but recipe down below.

Ghent-Style Waterzooi
Serves 2
Creamy, dreamy fish soup
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Ingredients
  1. 3 TB butter
  2. 4 medium leeks, trimmed, white and pale green parts only, julienned
  3. 2 carrots, peeled, trimmed, and shredded
  4. 2 shallots, peeled and minced
  5. 1/2 cup dry white wine
  6. 4 cups fish stock
  7. 3/4 TB dried thyme
  8. 1 bay leaf
  9. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  10. 2 pounds total boneless, skinless halibut and cod cut into 1" cubes
  11. 1 1/2 cups 2% milk
  12. 3 egg yolks
  13. Leaves from 8 sprigs parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. Melt butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, and shallots and cook until slightly soft, 3–5 minutes. Add wine, stock, thyme, bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until vegetables are soft, 10–15 minutes. Add fish and poach until cooked through, 6–8 minutes.
  2. Whisk milk and egg yolks together in a medium bowl. Gradually add 1 cup of the hot broth from pot, whisking constantly, then stir hot milk mixture back into pot. Heat stew until hot (do not allow to boil; it will curdle) Adjust seasonings. Garnish with parsley.
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World http://thehungarybuddha.com/
waterzooi

 

Belgian Endive Salad
Serves 2
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Ingredients
  1. 2 Belgian endives, washed and cut at an angle
  2. ½ cup carrot, shredded
  3. 1 tart apple, diced into 1” chunks
  4. 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
  5. 2 TB salad oil
  6. 1 TB lemon juice
  7. 1 tsp chopped garlic
Instructions
  1. Mix the dry stuff.
  2. Mix the wet stuff.
  3. Cover the dry stuff with the wet stuff.
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World http://thehungarybuddha.com/
**If you’ve never used flavored oil, you should.  It’s amazing stuff, and worth the cost, especially for salad dressings.  For this, I used a grapefruit olive oil. Deeeelish!

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