Week 2: The Netherlands

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThis is the second in our European Staycation series, introduced here.

Welkom! This week we “traveled” to the Netherlands for a fish-centered supper. We were both particularly excited about this dinner because my husband was born in and lived the first half of his life in Holland, and I hope someday to be able to walk with him down the streets where he grew up, and taste the dishes of his childhood (and of course, to visit his family there!). But alas, for now, this dinner will do.

We took the recipes out of this fabulous cookbook we received as a wedding present form Massimo’s family Daan and Mai, Dutch & Belgian Food and Cooking. Since the recipes are not available online, I have typed them up for you below.

The Dutch are not particularly known for their cuisine, but if you can ever get your hands on some stroopwafels, ontibijtkoek, Dutch licorice, or Dutch pancakes, you are in for a treat! For this meal, we wanted to include a few hallmark Dutch ingredients, like fish, Gouda cheese, and white asparagus. The menu for our dinner in Holland included: Alkmaar cheese soup, Flemish-style cod, and Dutch asparagus. The flavors blended together beautifully, and the scents were intoxicating! Plus, the use of butter in every dish never hurts.

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We did not indulge in the music of the Netherlands this week, because Massimo insists that Dutch is the worst language in which to sing, and wanted to spare my ears. The meal took a while to finish, but it was such a stress reliever to try something out of the ordinary, especially when that includes cooking with Massimo, one of my all-time favorite things.

My favorite dish out of this meal has to be the white asparagus. I’ve never had it before and although it was simply prepared, it was very elegant and had a terrific texture. All in all, we had a great time exploring the tastes of the Netherlands and I’m so looking forward to our next culinary adventure.

Here are the recipes from Dutch feast:

Alkmaar Cheese Soup

3 tbsp butter

1 onion, chopped

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

5 cups milk

1 1/4 cups grated aged (sharp) Gouda cheese

1 small celeriac (we used white turnip)

salt, to taste

chopped chives, to garnish

1. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute for five minutes.

2. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for two minutes. Gradually stir in the milk.

3. Continue to stir until slightly thickened. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Meanwhile, peel and finely dice the celeriac/turnip. Boil in a pot of water for about 10 minutes, until soft.

5. Drain celeriac/turnip and add to the soup with the remaining cheese.

6. Season to taste with salt. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chives.

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Flemish-Style Cod

7 tbsp butter

1 onion or 3 shallots, finely chopped

handful of chopped fresh parsley

drizzle of olive or vegetable oil

4 cod fillets, each about 6 oz.

bay leaf

1 1/4 cups white beer, such as Hoegaarden, or dry white wine

8 lemon slices

4 thyme sprigs

4 tbsp soft white breadcrumbs

salt and ground pepper, to taste

parsley and lemon wedges to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Use half the butter to grease a flame-proof casserole or frying pan that can be used in the oven.

2. Add the onion/shallots and parsley and drizzle with oil. Transfer the casserole/pan to the oven and cook for about four minutes.

3. Meanwhile, season the cod fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. Then place on top of the onion and parsley mix. Add the bay leaf and pour the beer/wine to almost cover the fish. Top each fillet with two lemon slices and a thyme sprig.

4. Return the casserole/pan to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. The fish should flake when tested with the tip of a sharp knife. Transfer the fillets to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

5. Put casserole/pan on medium heat on top of the stove. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the juices have reduced by about 3/4. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until they have been absorbed.

6. Cut the remaining butter into cubes and add to the sauce a little at a time. Stir until thick and creamy. If it’s too thick, add more beer/wine to thin it.

7. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Pour the sauce over the fish, and garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

Dutch Asparagus

4 1/2 pounds of the finest white asparagus

1 1/2 tbsp salt

8-12 small new potatoes (we used ordinary russet potatoes, cut into 1-2 inch pieces), peeled

4 eggs

scant 1/2 cup butter

8 slices unsmoked cooked ham

pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg, to garnish

chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

1. Rinse the asparagus and trim about 3/4 inch from the base. Peel the spears with a vegetable peeler from the tips downwards. Reserve the trimmings and peels.

2. Put the peels and trimmings in a pan and cover with a clean dish towel.

3. Place the asparagus spears on the dish towel, fold in the edges of the towel around the asparagus. Add enough cold water to cover it and add the salt. Cover the pan and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and poach gently for 10 minutes.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to stand for 15-20 minutes. Test that the asparagus is tender by pricking the ends with a fork. They should be soft, but not mushy.

5. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and keep warm.

6. Hard-boil the eggs in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Cool under cold running water. Remove the shells and halve the eggs.

7. Using a slotted spoon, remove the asparagus from a pan and drain on a dish towel. Melt the butter.

8. Arrange the asparagus spears on individual plates and garnish with ham, hard-boiled egg halves, and warm potatoes sprinkled with nutmeg. Pour over with butter and chopped fresh parsley.

-debarbibee

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