Monday Meal Review: Belgium

Happy Memorial Day everyone! Please be safe and smart whilst celebrating … I like you and want you to stick around for a while longer ūüôā¬†In the spirit of taking the holiday off, I’ll get to the point and jump right into the reviews. Enjoy!

Vlaamse Asperges (White Asparagus a la Flammande) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Vlaamse Asperges has three things going for it: the dish is elegant, the flavor is good, and there is next to no skill required to make it. This was my first time trying white asparagus and I was surprised to find them mildly sweet, with a slightly bitter undertone. Overally, I found the flavor to be remarkably less “asparagusy” than the green variety. If you struggle to get yourself or your family to like asparagus, white asparagus might be the way to go.

Ever since I met my husband he’s claimed an innate hatred for hard boiled eggs. He even gagged once when I asked him try one to “prove it.” Little did he know the sauce was almost entirely made of hard-boiled egg. ¬†I held my breath when he tried the dish. When I didn’t detect any gagging I casually ask him if he “liked the asparagus.” Please forgive me if I find it incredibly satisfying that he replied that “the asparagus was good with the sauce.” Yet another example of how foods that we “think” we don’t like can be good in different applications.

What I liked least about this dish:

The buttery, eggy sauce was a little too rich for our menu; Vlaamse Asperges is perfectly suited to eating with fish or chicken, but not stewed beef, French fries, and waffles. I’m sorry, but elegant asparagus just doesn’t go with such (awesome) comfort food.

Baked Belgian Endive with ham & cheese [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

This has got to be the easiest side dish or appetizer featured so far on Global Table. Perfect for a side dish or appetizer, consider baking the endive in individual casseroles for the guests. I love the salty, smoky flavor from the ham and the ooey-gooey goodness from the melted cheese. Because this dish only features 3 ingredients, the quality of ingredients is critical. Be sure to trim up your endive, remove all wilty, brownish leaves; take your time and choose a deeply-flavored smoked ham; finally, purchase a high quality cheese. You only need a few slices/ounces of each, so the costs will be negligible.

Also – I can’t believe I got my husband to eat endive. And he liked them!

What I liked least about this dish:

My only problem with this dish was my own fault. While at the deli counter I hemmed and hawed over the $18.99/lb smoked¬†Gruy√®re. Although I tasted it and loved the complex smoky flavor of this incredible cheese, the price scared me and I opted instead for a cheaper Gruy√®re.¬†Big mistake. I hated the plastic excuse for Gruy√®re¬†cheese that I settled on. The brand had something to do with … ahem…. “Boars.”

Learn from my mistake – since the recipe only requires a couple of ounces, go with best cheese you can afford. Taste a sample to be sure. Remember, if you love the cheese plain, you’ll love the cheese baked.

Stoofvlees (Flemish Stew) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Stoofvlees is rich, hearty, and easy enough to make. The deep, complex flavors are the result of a long marinade, gentle simmering, and a balance of ingredients. My husband loved it – said it was just a little “different,” which I attribute to the mustard and vinegar that¬†subtlety¬†flavors and tenderizes the meat. The other flavors – garlic, onion, rosemary, thyme, paprika, molasses, and beer – come together perfectly with no one flavor dominating the others.

What I liked least about this dish:

Not much. Although the stew takes a few hours to cook, I think the time is completely justified. Of course, making the stew in 90 degree weather might not have been a brilliant idea on my part. Things got pretty steamy in my kitchen!

If you are in a hurry but still want to try this stew, throw caution to the wind and skip the overnight marinade and cook a shorter amount of time. The depth of flavor will not be very intense but I’m guessing it’ll still be pretty darn good. If you need to thicken up the stew, just cook in some more flour.

Pommes Frites (French Fries) [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

There are certain dishes that everyone should make at home at least once – French fries, donuts, and ice cream being just three of them. The experience is fun especially if you have the opportunity to make them with children. I particularly like to teach the important lesson that restaurants and fast food establishments are NOT the only places that can provide delicious junk food.

In my experience homemade French fries get gobbled up faster than they can be cooked. If you want to make them all and then let people dig in, put the oven on low and store them in there until they are all cooked.

What I liked least about this dish:

I’ll go ahead and admit it. I couldn’t hardly stand to wait until I tried my first hot, crispy fry. As a result, I was a little impatient waiting for my oil to heat up. In my haste I made a couple of sub-par, “non-crispy” batches of fries. Although they were good, they certainly weren’t ahhhmazing. Lesson learned! Check your oil and if the temperature is not where the recipe indicates, do yourself a favor and¬†wait!

Waffles from Liege [Recipe]

What I liked most about this dish:

Liege waffles are incredibly addictive, dense, and sweet. The first thing that hit me was the lovely yeasty tang. Then, when I chewed each bite, I was pleasantly surprised by the slight crunch of caramelized sugary pockets. Awesome.

I knew that I’d be making waffles for Belgium, not just because they are a national favorite, but because I have such fond memories of eating them in Belgium as a teenager. They were so popular you could buy them prepackaged in the supermarket for a snack. And, guess what? I saw them here at our natural grocery store, too! However, they are 150% better homemade.

What I liked least about this dish:

Liege waffles are very heavy (2 sticks of butter for 6 waffles – boy howdy!), but (the good news is) this means you won’t feel the need to add butter on top of the waffles (and neither do the Belgians, for that matter). In fact, I didn’t even need the strawberries on them.

The real problem we ran into with the waffles was that the caramelized sugar makes quite a mess in the waffle maker if you overcook one. So, my best advice is make sure you don’t burn your waffle or you’ll be cursing the crusty mess. If you do have any troubles use a plush¬†terrycloth¬†dishtowel and water to clean out ¬†the waffle maker’s deep crevices.

Ava’s Corner:

Thanks to this week’s Belgian flavor-fest, Ava got good use out of her 4 teeth. ¬†One taste of the stew and Ava was in L O V E! She¬†happily chomped away on the stew for a couple of dinners, bouncing in her high chair in excitement. One day, for lunch, I mashed some of the meat up with potatoes, hard-boiled egg, Bulgarian yogurt, and fresh parsley. She was a huge fan. She also tried the leeks and the asparagus, but wasn’t nearly as smitten with them.

She’ll be 11 months this week! Can you believe it? <sigh>


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