Chasing the Chicken: Watery with a Smack of Zooi

We ate some amazing food during our La Tour de Trappe biking and beer trip through Belgium & The Netherlands, but there was one meal that stood out like a nun in a whorehouse. This meal was from our day in Rochefort and it was at Couleur Basilic, a little restaurant near the center of town. The main course was Le poulet à la Trappiste de Rochefort, basically chicken with Rochefort beer. As simple as that sounds, there was more than just beer with that chicken. There were definitely onions and cherries or possibly raisins. The sauce  was thick and dark and absolute heaven. Unfortunately, we were so hungry from the ride that we forgot to take a photo. So look at this Rochefort 10 instead.

Rochefort 10
This is what we were forced to drink while waiting on our food. This town is terrible!

Now we have decided to embark upon a holy quest to learn how to make this dish at home. It’s going to be long and difficult and we’ll have to make a lot of delicious Belgian food using Trappist beer. We may succeed, we may not, but I’m pretty sure it will be awesome.

Our first candidate is something called Chicken Waterzooi (Kippenwaterzooi in Dutch). This is a dish mostly found in the Dutch speaking region of Flanders. Rochefort is in Southern Belgium, in the French speaking region of Wallonia. Chances are that this is going to be very different than what we had in Rochefort, but we’re going to give it a try. After a little research we came up with a recipe that was heavily inspired by a recipe that we found online, mixed with some inspiration from Julia Child’s, The French Chef Cookbook. Casey really did all the research and cooking on this one, but I had to eat it and write about it so this has basically been a 50/50 split of responsibility.

The waterzooi is like an exceptionally creamy chicken and dumplings without the dumplings. Think of a hearty homemade cream of chicken soup with lots of veggies. The leeks really add a lot of flavor and remind me of potato leek soup, which is one of my favorite winter time dishes.  We served it alongside some thick slices of French bread and this was perfect for soaking up the really rich broth.

How does it compare to what we had in Rochefort? I would consider this more of a soup or stew than what we ate on the trip. It has a much lighter color, is far creamier, and doesn’t have near the sweetness of the Rochefort chicken. Also, I’m sure the Rochefort 8 contributed to the great flavor, but I honestly couldn’t pick it out in the taste of the waterzooi. The sauce on the Rochefort chicken had a definite sweet maltiness that just isn’t in this dish. Don’t get me wrong though, chicken waterzooi is pretty damn tasty. Our recipe is below.

Chicken Waterzooi
The only photo we took of the Chicken Waterzooi. We’re crap at this taking photos thing.

– 1 whole chicken
– 1 bottle (11.2 fl oz/330ml) of Rochefort 8 or similar Trappist ale
– 6 carrots, sliced
– 6 celery stalks, chopped
– 6 shallots, halved
– 3 leeks, chopped
– 2 garlic cloves, chopped
– 5 Tablespoons of butter (I told you this is rich and creamy)
– 4 eggs (yolks only)
– 1 Cup Heavy Cream (Did I mention this is creamy?)
– Juice of 1 Lemon
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 sprig of thyme
– Parsley
– Salt
– Pepper
– 1 loaf of crusty bread (we used country french bread)


Place the whole chicken into a pot breast up. Cover with water and add bay leaf, thyme, parsley, half the shallots, half the carrots, and half the celery, plus salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the stock and set to the side to cool. Strain out the vegetables and herbs and throw away. Bring stock to a boil and reduce by 1/3.

Meanwhile, put 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the leeks, carrots, celery, shallots, and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking, begin removing the meat from the chicken. Discard the bones and skin.

Lower the temperature of the stock. Add the chicken, vegetables, lemon juice, and the beer to the pot.

In a separate bowl combine the egg yolks, cream, and remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Mix well.

Add the cream mixture to the pot and cook at just below boiling for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Heat the bread in the oven for a few minutes.

Serve the waterzooi in a bowl alongside slices of warm french bread.


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