Moules Frites

This was our last Belgian meal and oh man! Before I get into how it turned out, let me share with you all the great information I learned about this dish.

1. It’s considered one of the national dishes of Belgium. It shares this title with Carbonnade Flamande. I am very jealous of the Belgian people because they get to choose from two fantastic dishes as their national dishes. As an American, my options are hot dogs and, I dunno, coke? Say what, coke isn’t a dish? Say that to the Fried Coke vendors at the Texas State Fair!

2. There are different versions of moules frites; I made the moules natures. There are six common variations and I would eat all.of.them.

3. There was something else I learned but I’ve forgotten it. It probably wasn’t all that interesting.

There were a couple of hiccups when making this meal. The first was that I couldn’t find fresh mussels. I made this on Sunday and thought about getting the mussels at the end of the week but I got lazy and then I also worried about them sitting in my fridge for a couple of days. Old shellfish is never a good idea. So I waited until Sunday to head out to Quality Seafood to buy the mussels, only to get there and find out they aren’t open on Sundays! Hellur? Did they not get my telepathic message that I was stopping by? Jerks. We weren’t too far from my favorite Asian supermarket, MT Supermarket, so we ended up going there because their website said they also had fresh mussels.

Their website lied!

They had fresh catfish, some other weird fish that I forgot the name of but that the girls enjoyed watching swim all over its tank, red tilapia, octopus, shrimp, you get the idea, but no mussels. I ended up going the frozen route and I wasn’t too excited about that because I’d gone the frozen route during Thai week and the results were not good. So I sucked it up and hoped for the best.

The second hiccup was making the mayonnaise. For whatever reason, the mustard and egg yolk refused to emulsify and I think that threw the whole thing off. Regardless of how much warm water or whatever other suggestions the internet offered, it would not solidify. I was annoyed. I only had one lemon so making another batch wasn’t an option. I ended up using store bought mayo and sprucing it up with a tablespoon of mustard and a lot of pepper. It ended up tasting as close to homemade mayo as possible so I was pretty content with that and hoped that it wouldn’t affect the meal too much.

So after holding my breath while adding the mussels and literally watching the timer to make sure I didn’t go over the recommended four minutes, I announced that dinner was ready. The baby set the table (She literally sets the table at two years old. What did I do to get such a wonderful child?!) and the oldest informed me that she didn’t want to eat dinner (Oh, that’s what I did. I had a temperamental, opinionated first child and the universe showed me some compassion and made up for it with the second kid). I served dinner and hoped we wouldn’t be taking a trip to Taco Cabana.

We didn’t go to Taco Cabana.

This meal was EVERYTHING. The mussels were not chewy or tough like during Thai week. Instead they were buttery, chewy, and slightly fatty. The leeks and celery completely dissolved in my mouth into rich, gooeyness and the fries, er, frites, were perfectly crispy on the outside and soft at the bite.

The oldest held true to her statement that she didn’t want to eat so she ran off and did what she does best, hide in her room and tell her imaginary friend how annoying I am*. I am not exaggerating about this. I’ve literally overheard her talking shit about me. Usually it’s after I haven’t let her do something like watch tv for six hours or because I’ve told her she needs to put clothes on. The teen years are going to be amazing with this one. The baby, however, ate TEN MUSSELS. She just couldn’t stop, she loved those little suckers. She also loved the mayo because at one point she just kept spooning it directly into her mouth. She is a treasure.**

This was a fantastic way to end Belgian week. The onion soup wasn’t my favorite but three out of four meals is not bad. And my two year old ate mussels. I mean, if that’s not a victory, I don’t know what is!

*She later told me she loved me and that I’m the best mommy. She might cause my blood pressure to skyrocket but within hours, she’s turning my cold, black heart a nice shade of gray and warming it up to just above freezing.

**She later kicked me in the stomach when I picked her up to put her in the bath. I had a tall glass of Frambois to calm down.

Recipe

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Onion Soup

This will be a short post because this meal was neither amazing nor terrible. It was right smack in the middle: good. I think there was a few factors contributing to it’s mediocrity but the biggest was the heat. I made this last Wednesday and even though we were experiencing a “cool” front of 85, it still made me feel very warm. This is precisely why I have issues eating hot soup during the summer. It’s too dang hot! It’s the same reason why I won’t eat tamales during the summer. it’s too hot!

Have I mentioned it’s too hot?

There’s a meme floating around on Hispanic websites that pairs “When your mom makes caldo on a 100 degree weather” with a picture of a celebrity crying (the most popular is Michael Jordan) and that basically sums up my feelings of eating soup during the summer. You’re already sweating because the Sun has decided to lay down on your part of the Earth and then you pour almost boiling liquid into your body so your insides can be just as hot as your outsides? Que pendejada.

I clearly have strong feelings about this.

So after I got over boiling my insides, I was able to focus on the flavor of the soup. It was okay. The truth is, I don’t like French Onion Soup and this was basically the same thing but with veggie broth instead of animal stock. This wasn’t as rich or tart as its French version but I actually liked that. A lot of the reviews complained about its sweetness but that’s what I liked about this soup. I think I put in more sourdough than I should have but I feel that helped with the saltiness.

I didn’t even bother giving this to the kids because 1. onions and 2. toddlers eating soup is messy as hell. No thank you.

I have one more Belgian meal to post about and then I need to figure out what I’m making this week. I want something with lots of veggies and that doesn’t require me turning on the oven. Any suggestions are much appreciated!

Recipe

Carbonnade Flamande

This dish was one that was recommended to me by various people who have visited Belgium. There was a lot of praise and many said it was their favorite thing to eat in Belgium. So I obviously had to try it.

There are many variations of this dish and it was hard to find a true “Belgian” version and I think that has to do with Belgian cuisine being so heavily influenced by neighboring France, Germany, and the Netherlands. After looking at many, I just chose one that was the easiest. Don’t know if that’s being true to the dish but it made my Wednesday night a lot easier.

It’s very similar to beef bourguignon and the Nourished Kitchen‘s Braised Short Ribs with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Herbs*, both of which I’ve made before. The biggest difference is that both those dishes are made with red wine while carbonnade is made with beer. Actually, that’s the only difference. Well, beef bourguignon doesn’t use any pork and also includes onions and mushrooms but you get the point. Seeing as how I’ve made these before, I felt pretty confident with making this meal as well because I have, just with wine. Confidence is very important in the kitchen.

My confidence paid off because this was an extremely satisfying dinner! I did forget to make frites but this was more than enough food for us. I feel like it could have used a bit more tomato puree and I don’t say that because it affected the flavor but because all the pictures I saw of this dish were significantly redder than mine. I couldn’t find anything that told me whether I should marinate in the fridge or at room temperature so I did overnight in the fridge and then let it sit out in a covered dish in the kitchen for about six hours. I don’t know if that made a difference but just want to throw that out there.

The oldest was not interested in it at all. I can’t remember her reasoning but I’m pretty sure it was not logical. The baby, my beautiful, healthy, somewhat gluttonous baby, had two servings. That’s right, she ate hers and her sister’s. And it wasn’t that she was hungry, she had already eaten a lot that day, she just really liked the meal. I’m telling you, this kid and I are going to take a food tour of Europe someday and the oldest will be at home, eating McDonald’s.

So I now have three versions of this dish that I can make and that’s good. It’s nice to be able to change things up every once in a while. And it’s also nice to have options when you’re missing certain ingredients for one meal. Which, of course, never happens to me because I always have a fully stocked pantry and refrigerator and never forget to buy anything at the store. Never.

*If you are not familiar with Nourished Kitchen, I cannot stress enough how much you are missing out! She focuses on using real food and preparing them using traditional methods like fermentation and soaking and souring grains. The Beef Braised Ribs can be found in her cookbook and before starting this project, I used it all.the.time. I have yet to have a bad meal from her recipes and I cannot recommend it enough!

Recipe

Chicken Waterzooi

About ten years ago I bought a book titled 501 Must Read Books. Reading all 501 books is on my bucket list; I’ve read about 30 so I have a ways to go. Anyway, at some point I was browsing for books at Goodwill. This was before the bedbug epidemic and before all the transplants from bedbug infested cities moved to Austin and brought their creepy crawlies with them and you could buy secondhand books without worrying about bringing them into your home. Ruining secondhand book purchases for Austinites is something that is often forgotten when we complain about how transplants have ruined this city but honestly, I think it’s far more important than what they’ve done to traffic. Think of the books!

Back to my story. I was at Goodwill. One book I came across was Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald. I remember feeling it looked familiar and the story on the jacket was interesting (“the story of a man’s search for the answer to his life’s central riddle”) so I bought it for a whopping $1. I got home and put it with all the other books I hadn’t yet gotten around to reading and forgot about it. A bit later, when updating my reading list in the 501 book, I saw that Austerlitz was on the list. The “Woah!” and “Wow!” feelings were full blown kismet. I was meant to read this book!

I started reading the book last week and I’m on page thirteen. What does this have to do with this blog? Well, the first thirteen pages are set in Belgium and reading those thirteen pages inspired me to do Belgian food this week. So here we are. It’s all connected.

Also, before I move on, those first two paragraphs would not have been possible had I been reading an ebook. Physical books have more stories than just what’s written on the pages and let’s try to remember that. No doubt, there’s a place for ebooks, but they will never replace the real thing.

Last night I made Chicken Waterzooi. Traditionally it’s made with fish but I wasn’t in a fish mode so I chose the chicken option. Also, it’s traditionally eaten during the winter because it’s a hot, creamy soup. Hot, creamy soup and I made it in Texas summer. All glorious 95 degree Texas summer with 1000% humidity. It was not the smartest decision but it was a DELICIOUS one. It was very rich, probably due to the large amount of chicken broth and egg yolk, but the veggies made it lighter. The use of leeks, celery, and onions (some of the lightest vegetables you can eat) really helped offset the creaminess. I think it would have been a different story had I used a starch like potatoes so I’m grateful for the lightness.

The oldest didn’t eat it. Her exact words were “Mommy’s soup is yucky!” but oh well, more for us! The baby loved it because she’s an amazing child who appreciates what her mother does for her. And also she likes to eat but in order to shame the oldest one into submission, I’m focusing on the love the baby has for me.

I really am the best mother around.

Recipe