Author note: I cooked this dish in the fall, just at the start of the colder season. This dish would be fulfilling anytime you are looking for warming, healthy and satisfying comfort food to pair with a fuller flavored craft beer.
Part 2 of 2 – Cooking, pairing and enjoying Waterzooi
The recipe for Waterzooi (from The Best of American Beer And Food by Lucy Saunders) calls for a Strong Golden Ale (see Belgian & French Ales). I choose to use Russian River Damnation. This beer is 7% alcohol by volume which is almost twice the strength of an average American light lager, but is less alcoholic then a barleywine, some stouts and numerous other beer styles. The beer is slightly sweet and delivers fantastic nuances from the Belgian yeast strain used for fermentation. As the recipe suggests, I simply open the bottle, measure out the specified amount and pour it into the stockpot. What fun it is to cook with such a special beer. I also plan to pair the dish with the rest of what’s left in the beautiful 750 ml ‘dinner table’ bottle that comes corked with a cage on top to ensure the cork stays in place until sample time.
Yikes. I’ve run out of crème since I’m doubling the recipe. No worries. I add whole milk and hope for the best.
At 5:15, guests begin to arrive. The damn electric stove, even on its lowest setting, is warming the dish beyond simmer so the crème curdles a bit. Oh well. We can’t all be Lucy Saunders in the kitchen, although it’s fun to try.
Sample time: Before I serve, I give the finished stew a try. It’s a bit bland for my taste, yet it fills me with a sense of nourishment and warmth. I add salt, some pepper, garlic salt, and two more tablespoons of butter (because, as we know from the movie Julie & Julia, butter makes everything better). Another taste and I decide we are there. It’s interesting to note that other recipes I Googled for Waterzooi called for egg yolks, but the Best of American Beer & Food version does not.
Serving: It’s go time. I put the stockpot on the kitchen table with spoons and bowls next to it. People are eating at both the table and counter, wherever there is a seat. Since it’s a pot luck, we are diving into all the dishes, so the soup is competing with a lot of other good food. I place the bottle of golden ale, along with empty taster glasses, next to the stockpot to entice the guests to try the beer with the Waterzooi. I offer a glass to anyone reaching for the soup suggesting they see for themselves how well the beer pairs with the dish. The golden strong ale has enough body to stand up to the creamy stew, yet neither overpowers the other. This pairing is a perfect example of matching strength with strength (see Principles of Matching).
Feedback from the guests: “The beer goes so well with the soup.”, “Wow that soup is really, really good.”, “Mmmm.”
Conclusion: The feedback was music to this beer lovers ears. I absolutely plan to make this incredibly easy dish again during the fall and winter months. As the book states, it is truly food that ‘will warm the soul’ and craft beer was an important ingredient and excellent pairing that helped make a very special memory.
I hope you consider preparing the Waterzooi recipe and if you do please let us know what you think! Cheers.