Chicken Water-what-i?

It’s soup week at school. One of the things I’ve always loved about making soup is that it’s low maintenance to prepare. At least, my way it is.  You get a good flavor base going with some onions and garlic, maybe throw in some celery and carrots, some sort of protein, stock or water and some sort of seasoning, and then let it all simmer for awhile while you go read a book or take a nap or binge-watch Supernatural on Netflix. (Maybe that last one is just me.)

The soups we made this week, or rather, the recipes we used to make the soups we made this week, were a lot higher maintenance than what most home cooks are used to. Maybe I shouldn’t speak for all of us. All I know is that I’ve never put this much effort into a soup before. I’ll admit, though, that the efforts were totally worth it.

In honor of soup week, I thought I’d give you all a little peek at one of our recipes from this week. It’s for a soup called Chicken Waterzooi. This is a good recipe for beginning culinary students because it not only builds on material we’ve already learned (stocks and sauces), but it provides some great opportunities to work on knife skills and learn a few new cooking methods.

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Chicken Waterzooi is a funny name for what is essentially a chicken and vegetable soup, but it’s finished with something called a liaison, a mixture of heavy cream and egg yolks in a 2:1 ratio that is added to the soup just before serving to add richness and body. It might sound kinda weird, but it really does bring something special to the party. Waterzooi originates as a Belgian stew, and the funny name comes from the Dutch word “zooien,” which just means, “to boil.” The original stew was made with fish, but this chicken version is more common.

The recipe from our textbook is for one gallon of soup, but I’m going to cut it in half for you, so it will yield two quarts. I’ll warn you about a couple things:

1. This is a long recipe with a lot of steps. If you’re the kind of person who just enjoys reading recipes, you’ll like this one. If you get exhausted halfway through just reading this thing, I won’t blame you if you move on. I’m sort of using this recipe to demonstrate the differences between how we cook as home cooks, and the methods professional chefs use in the kitchen. 

2. This is a one shot only soup, meaning, once you add the liaison, you need to use up all of it at one meal. If you try to reheat it later the eggs will scramble. I’ll also link you to definitions for some of the culinary terms that might not be familiar. The equipment list will show the equipment we used in class, but use what’s available to you.

Equipment:
2 Large soup pots or stock pots, large enough to hold two quarts of liquid
1 frying pan/sautee pan, whatever you call it
Scale that will measure to the ounce (In class we’re taught to measure by weight, but if you want to measure by volume I’ll provide those measurements, too. Just know that the amounts are not exactly the same. Or you can just eyeball it.)
Tongs
Vegetable peeler
Knife and cutting board
Whisk
2 medium sized mixing bowls
Containers for your mise en place 
Measuring spoons
Cheese cloth and twine
Fine mesh strainer

Ingredients:
1 ½ – 2 lbs chicken (include fat, skin, and bones)
2 quarts chicken stock
Vegetables, to be cut into a 1 inch julienne:
     * 2.5 oz (5 T) Carrots
     * 2.5 oz (5 T) Celery
     * 1.5 oz (3 T) Turnips
     * 4 oz (1/2 C) Russet Potatoes
     * 2 oz (4 T) Leeks
3 oz (6 T) All purpose flour
3 oz (6 T) unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
10 oz. heavy cream
Salt
½ tsp white pepper
¼ bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped – save the stems!
6-8 peppercorns
Small bunch (3-4 stems) fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove
Ice and water

Directions:
First, make your sachet d’epices by placing the peppercorns, parsley stems, garlic clove, fresh thyme and bay leaf into the center of a 4 x 4 inch, double layered square of cheesecloth. Tie it into a little purse with the kitchen twine.

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Add the chicken, chicken stock, and sachet to the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Skim any scum that rises to the top if necessary.

While the chicken cooks, julienne all your vegetables.

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In your second pot, bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil, and add ice and water to your first mixing bowl. Blanch each vegetable separately. After removing from the boiling water, immediately plunge the vegetables into the ice water bath to stop the cooking and lock in the colour. Once the vegetables are cool, drain and transfer to one of your mis en place containers and reserve. Rinse out that 2nd pot right away, because you’ll need it again soon. (I’m trying to help limit the already ridiculous amount of dishes you’re going to have to do after completing this recipe.)

Now it’s time to make the roux, which will help slightly thicken the soup. If you’ve ever made a good sausage gravy, you know the general principle of making a roux. Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat. Once it’s melted, add the flour and whisk it into the butter. Keep whisking for about 4 minutes, until the flour has cooked and your roux has turned a pale golden color. Mine actually came out just a little darker than that and everything was fine so don’t freak out if it gets a little darker than “blonde,” but don’t let it get any darker than what you see here or it will affect the flavour and colour of your final product.

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Once the roux is cooked, pour it into another mis en place container and set aside to cool.

Turn the heat off under your broth. Remove the chicken pieces with your tongs and allow them to cool. Strain the broth into your second pot to remove any floating bits, return to the stove, then whisk the cooled roux into the broth. Make sure the roux is at least room temperature before you add it, because adding hot roux to hot broth is a recipe for lumps. (Science!)

Bring the broth back up to a boil, then reduce the heat to an easy simmer and let it cook for another 40 minutes.  The chicken is probably cooled off enough now for you to pick off all the meat and dice it into ½ inch pieces. Put the chicken into another mis en place container and set aside.

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Add your reserved veggies in during the last 10 minutes or so, to allow them to finish cooking and get tender.

Right after you add the veggies, you can get your liaison together. Just whisk the two egg yolks with the heavy cream in that 2nd mixing bowl until well combined.

Just before you’re ready to serve the soup, you’ll add the liaison. Make sure the broth is just barely simmering. Add a small amount (maybe a cup or so) of the hot broth into the liaison as you whisk. This is called tempering. Basically, you’re trying to get your liaison closer to the temperature of your broth, so that when you add it the eggs don’t scramble.

Once your liaison is tempered, slowly whisk it into the soup. After it’s all in there, you can add the chicken meat and, still at a simmer, bring the soup up to serving temperature. Remember, do not let your soup boil after you’ve added the liaison, or (do I sound like a broken record yet?) the eggs will scramble.

Add a good pinch of salt and the pepper, then taste the soup and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Serve it up into bowls and garnish with your chopped parsley.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, because you deserve it. Also, loudly declare to your dinner guests that, “She/He who cooks never cleans,” and give them all a meaningful look. Smile inside your head as you picture that sink full of pots and pans and mixing bowls, and then shoot out another meaningful look at your guests, just for good measure, so they understand that your intention is for all of them to clean up your mess after dinner while you enjoy a second glass of wine and the satisfaction of a job well done.

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