Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 17 Belgium! Mussels, Belgian Fries& Braised Belgian Endives- Up Next Belize

Here's something I've come to know - working on the write-up after cooking a meal from a specific country is as exciting as the cooking and dining experience itself. Something about the process...settling down after the meal, collecting my thoughts, pulling the research together and adding pictures truly completes the creative process. Alors mes amis,  bien venue!

Belgium, (Brussels) (EU): Sandwiched between France and Holland along the North Sea, Belgium covers a strip of land almost 200 miles long and 100 miles wide. Its people divide into two distinct cultures -- the Flemish in the Northern half, and the Walloons in the Southern half. The languages spoken include French, Flemish, and German, though in tourist centers people speak English as well. The capital, Brussels, stands in the center of the land and ranks as an expanding and expensive international city.

Today Belgians proudly say their food is cooked with French finesse and served with German generosity.  Belgian endive, or chicory, has a place of honor in dining and a unique style of cultivation. This vegetable was accidentally discovered by a Belgian farmer, Jan Lammers, in 1830, when he returned from war and found his chicory (used for coffee and stored in the barn) had sprouted white leaves. He was captivated by its tangy, distinctive flavor. It was another 30 years before endive, known as witloof, became a successful crop. In 1872 it was introduced in Paris, to rave reviews, so popular it was called white gold.

Belgians also love the combination of mussels and Pomme Frites, what we call French Fries, but which, it turns out, were invented in Belgium NOT France. Eaten in combination, they comprise what some consider to be the Belgian National Dish. They are called "Freitok" and are doubled fried, which is essential if one wants to achieve the perfect, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside texture. I actually found a website devoted exclusively to Belgian Fries that was incredibly informative and whose recipe is listed here:

Tonight's menu
  • Braised Belgian Endive
  • Mussels 
  • Belgian Fries
  • Homemade mayonnaise and salt - never catsup and never vinegar!

I got the (farm raised) mussels at my local Market Basket, which had just come in this morning from Canadian Cove,, and I've got to say, they were excellent!

Soak mussels in salted water

Slice Russet potatoes and soak in cold water to remove starch, core endives and slice in half
Get ur tongs
and work in multiple screens to view all recipes - dag, this kitchen is hot as Hell

Cook mussels in garlic, shallots, white wine and parsley till they open

 Double fry potatoes - let them sit to "sweat" between fryings
Braise the endives

The Judges loved the meal, but against my protestations, broke out the Heinz

Pomme Frites

  • Peel about 4 Russet potatoes. Cut them in slices 1 cm (3/8″) thick and finally cut them into fries of 1 cm square .
  • Dry the fries well in paper or a towel before putting them into the oil. put them in cold water for a few minutes.
  • this washes out much of the starch and tends to make them less sticky after the first frying and more crispy after the second.
  • Heat the oil in a hot frying pan or deep fryer to a temperature of 160°C (320°F). 
  • Put in a handfull of fries: not more at once because the oil will cool down too much. 
  • Fry for a few minutes (4-8 depending on the thickness and the kind of potatoes), stir regularly to prevent sticking. 
  • Drain fries on papertowels and let them cool down and ’sweat’ for at least 1/2 hour.
Finally heat to 190°C (375°F) and fry for 2 minutes until crispy and golden brown. This way the fries will be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the way they should be!
Serve with a little salt (no vinegar pleeeeease) and some mayonnaise.

Braised Belgian Endive
Makes 4 servings
8 whole heads of Belgian endive, cored
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Slowly sauté the endive in butter in a shallow pan over a medium hot heat. Turn to cook both sides. Add the
other ingredients, cover the pan, and simmer on low for 25 minutes, adding a few drops of water if necessary.

Steamed Mussels
Makes 3 to 4 entree servings or 12 first-course servings.
3 quarts mussels in the shell (about 4 pounds)
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 shallots or green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup minced parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Melted butter

Soak the mussels for 30 minutes in salted water. Scrub the mussels well under cold running water with a stiff brush. In a large soup kettle, sauté the garlic and shallots in oil until soft, stirring. Add wine, parsley, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, cover, and simmer gently until the shells open, about 8 minutes; discard any that do not open. Spoon the mussels into soup bowls and ladle the broth over them. Pass the butter, if desired, for dipping the mussels.


Sae Faeri En said...

An absolute classic. When we were in Paris, we stopped at a bier garten on Rue Saint Denis that served up huge plates of mussels with fries. True to most regional cuisine restaurants: when you see a "native" eating there, it must be good. This place was thronged with Belgians.

Anyway, such a great meal, and fairly simple, too!

jd decker said...

happy family

sadie said...

Thank you Sae and Jd!

janet said...

I saw the photo in the MWDN and thought,......"I know that kitchen!"! I had to run and fetch my glasses see that beautiful face of yours ( yes, over 40 and blind as a bat).
Anyway, I am so....proud and excited for you! I am totally coming for dinner. I could only dream of my boys ( other than Connor) eating anything besides pasta, pizza, hot dogs or burgers. Steve and I were inspired by the J&J movie, however, it ended with that. His family is fresh of the boat from Italy, and cook very authentic. I am spoiled in that department. My grandfather is form Albania, and I have tons of recipes for that country. All you need in about 8 lbs. of butter or lard ! LOL. You, my friend are utterly AMAZING. so nice to see the photos of the boys and Liam. They are all as handsome as ever.
Let's do coffee soon. I would love to catch up! All is well on the home front. Hope you are all well. You all look fabulous!
Hugs and kisses to all.....

witchywoman said...

LOL! We had a very similar menu on this one, Sadie! I made chicken with Belgian Endive (Kip Met Witloof), Frieten, and Pouding Aux Pommes (Apple Pudding) I said before, great minds think alike!

sadie said...

Laurrie - Once my guys realized there were fries involved, I had no choice but to make this recipe!