Area: Over 30,000 sq km, 140th in the world
About the size of Maryland
Geography: Most Western European capitals are within 1000 km of Brussels
Population: Almost 10.5 million, 80th in the world
Capital: Brussels, which is also the seat of the EU and NATO
Major ethnic groups: Fleming and Walloon
Chief of State: King Albert II
Belgian Cuisine: The two things that get their own heading in Wikipedia are Frites and Beer. I like where this is heading.
It was not hard to find out that the national dish of Belgium was moules frites - mussels and fries. However, with the increasingly in-the-way dislike of seafood, that wasn't going to work. I briefly considered just making them for Kevin, but I wasn't sure how expensive they were, plus it would be a lot of work. I did know, however, that I wanted frites. Delicious delicious frites.
The first time I technically had Belgian frites was the best dinner of my life - when the cooks from my former employer went to a friends house and cooked for us. It was something we had purchased in an auction. The entire dinner was amazing.
|Blurry, but still delicious.|
There are Belgian recipes all over the internet, so there was no trouble finding one. The real issue came with finding an authentic one. Luckily, I found a site that was actually pulling the recipes from a Belgian cookbook, which therefore seemed legit. There were a few options, but we ended up going with Ham and Belgian Endive Tart for a few reasons. One, I had never made a "tart" (quiche) before. Two, I kept finding references to endives.
I had never have endives before, at least not that I'm aware of. But clearly I had to try them, otherwise I would apparently be snubbing the gift.
I couldn't just stop here though, no-no. Also while searching I found this website, with a chocolate mousse recipe. It also told me, kinda, how to make frites. This is shaping up to be a real meal!
My only worry with shopping was finding the endives. I couldn't find them at Harris Teeter, even though there was signage for it. Luckily I asked, and they had some in the back. What, am I at a shoe store or something? Oh well, it was time to cook!
First I had to start the frites because the recipe says to soak them for an hour. It was very vague, and also very similar to the recipe in my other cookbook. Also, I have a french fry cutter. We weren't sure if it would really work. It is amazing.
|Step 1: Insert Potato|
|Step 2: Push Lever|
|That is what they look like, for those of you who didn't know, like me!|
|The goo one website warned me to avoid.|
|That looks generous, right?|
|Ham = wonderful.|
|Looks like it is going to overflow, and I'm not even done yet.|
|Now with parsley and color effects.|
The instructions for the mousse were simple. Melt, whisk, cool. It didn't say which type of cream to use, though, so I did whipping. Dark chocolate chips helped with the melting part. It went in very smoothly. Where I had trouble was the whisking. I tried to do it by hand. Don't ask me why. I had to switch bowls a few times because they weren't big enough, and I don't think I ever got the egg whites where they needed to be. But I mixed it all together nonetheless.
Kevin is building a rocket. Yes, a rocket. That looks like an SR-71. Yay wedding presents from Will!
|Except it makes my table look like this.|
|Maybe they won't see me if I blend in enough.|
It was okay. Seemed a little bland. Probably not enough nutmeg/salt/pepper. I wasn't sure how I felt about the endives either. I was...unfamiliar with them. I think it would have been better if I had mixed them with the ham. Then I could have gotten a little of everything in each bite instead of it being very clear which part I was eating. As a sidenote, it got better as leftovers, though. Good stuff.
One of the reasons I wanted to do this adventure was to get better about new ingredients. For some reason, if I have to cook a dish out of an ingredient I am unsure about (endives, okra, grape leaves), I often have a problem with it. It isn't bad if it is a smaller part of the dish, like rose water or turnips. But if it is part of the main focus, it bothers me. I smell it and see it transform and I don't know if I am doing it right or what it is supposed to taste like. It hasn't gone well. I don't know if I am messing up or it is a child-like aversion to new/unknown things. If anyone has any advice or a similar problem that they have learned to deal with, I would like to hear your thoughts. Although "Get over it, you're a baby" probably won't go over too well. "ur stupid" would probably be worse.
The frites were, well, fries. They didn't have that extra oomph that actual Belgian frites I have eaten did. Maybe they just don't want to reveal their secret.
Chocolate mousse? Disappointing. I absolutely love chocolate mousse. This was chocolate. It was not mousse.
Everyone should get excited, because Belgium isn't done yet. There is going to be a part 2, a continuation. It won't be much, but I can finish this one out and also respond to any comments or questions or just post Tesla pictures if that ends up working out best.
Next time: Belgium Part 2
Last time: Belarus