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Belgian Cuisine: Napoleon couple pair food and beer

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Napoleon brewmaster Bob Hall and his wife, LeAnn, have become experts on Belgian beers and recently have been pairing it with Belgian foods. Bob has been making beer since the 1970s.

In April, 2008, Bob and I were in Denver [for the NCAA hockey tournament]. We found a Belgian restaurant called the Cheeky Monk, said Mrs. Hall, a retired teacher. They had a sausage and cheese platter and a seafood chowder called Waterzooi which we ordered. We saved the menu. The menu and the meal would later inspire them in the kitchen.

The couple had twice auctioned dinners a Japanese dinner in 2007 and a Swiss raclette dinner in 2008 for Symphony of Trees, which benefits children s treatment and programs in Henry County. Last November, they decided they would develop a Belgian-themed dinner inspired by their Cheeky Monk experience and donate it to the fund-raiser.

Their Bistro in Brussels dinner was prepared March 21 for Denise and Mike McColley and Pam and Tim Thompson, who had the winning bid.

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LeAnn Hall fi lls a bowl with Waterzooi.

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Each course in the dinner was paired with a particular Belgian beer that Mr. Hall chose. Belgians have a passion for beer, he says. Being next to France, which is known for its wines, it s interesting.

The ambitious menu began with appetizers of a Sausage and Cheese Platter (chicken and apple sausage with regional cheeses and warm baguettes) and Mussels a la Marineiere steamed in white wine. It was served with Hoegaarden Blanche.

The soup, Waterzooi, is a typical Belgian seafood chowder. Mrs. Hall prepared it with cod, ocean scallops, and shrimp. Last winter, when they were up in Michigan for a ski weekend, We made this in two batches: fish in one batch and seafood in another, Mrs. Hall said. Waterzooi can also be made with chicken.

All versions of Waterzooi are enriched with egg yolks, cream, and butter. It is less thick than a traditional clam chowder, she says, noting it is similar to an egg drop soup. You add a little broth to temper the egg-cream mixture so it doesn t boil. You want it to simmer.

A tri-colored Endive Salad was prepared with endive and mixed greens with roasted beets and walnuts.

Mr. Hall, a retired school administrator, served the second course with Saison Dupont. There s a Saison Dupont Brewery in Cooperstown, N.Y., he notes. [Beermakers] use a lot of spices in Belgian beer.

Belgian entree

Carbonnade a la Flamande was the main dish. Beef carbonnade is a national dish of Belgium, said Mrs. Hall. We used venison instead, which makes it richer. To get ready for the dinner, we did a blind test and found everybody liked the venison better. Before it was served, she added red wine vinegar and currant jelly and chopped parsley to the slow-roasted beef cooked with onions and carrots.

Since Bob is a hunter, I use the venison I have, she said. The venison was delicious and mildly flavored in the dish. Make sure the venison is browned thoroughly on all sides. This results in a tastier gravy.

She makes venison stew and also uses the meat, which is very lean, mixed with pork in burgers.

Beef cooked in beer has long been part of the culinary heritage of Belgium, writes Ruth Van Waerebeek in Everybody Eats Well in Belgium (Workman, $14.95). The sweet and spicy stews have been a part of the Belgian palate since the Middle Ages.

The Halls even mastered the art of twice-fried Belgian fries. Bob produced a lot of fries, said Mrs. Hall about their preparation for the dinner. Fry the potatoes at 325 degrees just until tender. Then remove them, drain, and let them sweat or rest for 30 minutes. Then you put the fries in the hot oil again at 375 degrees and cook until golden brown.

Mrs. Hall notes that the Carbonnade is a hearty main course, but the vinegar and sweet currant combination give it a great flavor.

The entree was served with Westmall Trappist Dubble.

Dessert

Belgian chocolate is some of the finest in the world. Chocolate mousse, chocolate sauce, and chocolate ganache are so natural for the last course.

For this dinner, the Belgian chocolate mousse recipe came from Cook s Illustrated Magazine. Mrs. Hall used Ghiradelli 70 percent cocoa. It was served with assorted Belgian chocolates.

Lindemann s Framboise (Raspberry) Lambic was paired with dessert. Lambic beer is a wheat beer produced in a small area southwest of Brussels.

At the end of the dinner, the guests asked for the recipe for the mousse, said Mrs. Hall. There s so much interesting food from around the world.

The Halls Belgian dinner is just the beginning of this European cuisine. Everybody Eats Well in Belgium includes recipes for Gratin of Belgian Endives, Belgian Steamed Mussels, Chicken Braised in Belgian Beer, Flemish Style Lamb Ragout, Belgian Fruit-Filled Waffles and Belgian Chocolate Ganache Tart.

Contact Kathie Smith at: food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.

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