(Originally published August 15, 2013 on Examiner.com).
At The Tripel in Playa Del Rey, Chef Brooke Williamson and Chef Nick Robert’s Chicken Waterzooi is a dish inspired by the Belgian beers that this husband and wife team’s restaurant serves. Because of this heavy influence of Belgian beer on their beer list, Brooke & Nick wanted to bring a bit of traditional Belgian flavor to the menu with items that pair well with these beers.
Waterzooi is a dish of stew that originated in Flanders. The original dish is often made of either freshwater or ocean fish (known as Viszooitje) though today chicken is most commonly used.
In The Tripel’s version, braised dark meat (thighs and drums from Mary’s Chickens), in a reduced slightly creamy broth is served with the other key components of the dish that include multi-colored heirloom carrots, leeks, kale, fenugreek, gremolata and a potato latka. The latka replaces the more traditional boiled potatoes, and provides the dish with an additional contrasting crunchy texture.
This is a staple item on The Tripel’s menu that does not change like other seasonal menu items. All the ingredients are locally sourced. The colored carrots, leeks, and kale are often a weekly pick up at theSanta Monica Farmers Market depending on the time of the year.
The chicken, prepared in advance, is braised for three hours at a low temperature in the oven to make sure it stays moist. The braising liquid includes two types of Belgian beer: A blond ale and hafe-weisan, a wheat beer. A little bit of cream added to the reduced braising liquid becomes the broth poured on before plating.
The Latka added to the dish, made to order, contains shredded onion and potato. It is pan fried until crisp on the outside, but still soft in the center to properly soak up the broth. The whole dish is finished off with a heavy sprinkling of gremolata, a combination of fresh chopped garlic, lemon zest, and Italian parsley to bring some freshness to the final dish.
The chicken, vegetables and latke are plated together in a large sauté/sauce pan which makes the dish feel a bit more rustic and homemade plus neatly fits with the causal rustic vibe of the restaurant’s interior design.
Like other dishes on the menu, the Chicken Waterzooi takes something familiar dish and gives it a twist, to make it their own. That twist may be a spice that you wouldn’t expect or an ingredient that seems out of place until the whole dish is eaten together. So the Chicken Waterzooi, at first glance, may seem traditional, but by being given a twist tastes fresh and non-traditional. In general at The Tripel, Brooke, Nick and their team’s cuisine feels casual like the type of food you could eat every day, but is interesting enough so their guests actually do desire to eat it every day.