Saturday, March 10, 2012

Zuurvlees

One of the drawbacks of living abroad is missing out on favorite foods. Sometimes it's not the food itself as much as the memory or the experience of eating it, and with whom. One such foods is "friet zuurvlees", a portion of french fries covered in a thick, sweet and slightly tangy beef stew. As soon as the smell hits me, I am transported back to two different places in time: one place is my grandma Pauline's small kitchen in Blerick, and the many, many times we sat at her table and ate this dish. The other place is, oddly enough, the Waterlooplein flea market in Amsterdam, where on Saturday mornings my friend Andy and I would often hit the patatkraam, a small stand that sold sodas, ice creams and french fries, to get a portion of zuurvlees with our fries.
Finding zuurvlees in Amsterdam is a treat in itself, as the tangy, sweet and tender beef stew is a traditional dish from the south of the Netherlands, more specifically from the province of Limburg. Traditionally made with horse meat, the current versions more than often uses beef instead.

Any southern frietkraam worth its name will offer "friet zuurvlees", preferably a homemade zuurvlees. Especially the city of Maastricht is famous for it, so as soon as the opportunity arose I took off to the Markt where I was told I could get a fantastic sample of my favorite food. Well.......not so much. The sauce was thin and riddled with dark specs, which I have yet to identify, and the flavor was off: not sour, not sweet.....it just tasted like a canned, watered-down version of the real stuff.

So, I figured it was time to hit the pots and pans again and make grandma Pauline's zuurvlees: nice chunky pieces of beef, and a thick gravy that clings to every golden french fry on my plate. Yum!!

Zuurvlees
2 lb beef chuck roast, cubed
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 cup white wine vinegar
2 cups of water
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns
2 cloves, whole
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon appelstroop
2 slices ontbijtkoek

Put the beef in a non-reactive bowl, place the slices of onion on top and cover with the vinegar and the water. Add two bay leaves, the peppercorns and the two whole cloves, cover and marinate for at least four hours, but preferably overnight. Make sure to stir the meat once or twice during this time so that all pieces have an opportunity to marinate.

Separate the meat from the marinade, and remove and discard the peppercorns. Pat the beef chunks dry with a towel, and salt and pepper them. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven and brown the meat. Drain the onions and brown with the meat, then add the marinade. Bring back to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the meat is tender, a good hour or two.
Now stir in the appelstroop, break the ontbijtkoek in pieces and add it to the sauce. Slowly simmer until the ontbijtkoek has dissolved. Taste, and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Serve hot over a plate of homemade patat and enjoy!

8 comments:

  1. Ahhhhh yes indeed! Fond memories of those days on the Waterlooplein. :)

    I'm going to have to at least try to make this one... any thoughts on possible replacements for Appelstroop and Ontbijtkoekjes?

    Andy

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  2. Hi Andy!! In a pinch, appelstroop can be replaced with brown sugar, and for the ontbijtkoek, make a slurry with some flour and the spices that traditionally go into ontbijtkoek and thicken the sauce that way. Easy peasy!

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  3. My mother's recipe is roughly the same, but has no ontbijtkoek. So you could just leave it out. I use cornstarch to thicken the sauce as needed.

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  4. I tried this as I have all the ingredients. I needed to make changes to get the balance of sweet and sour. Same ingredients, but 4 tablespoons of applestroop and 4 slices of ontbeitkoek. Then it tasted just as good as the one in the main square in Maastricht.

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  5. Yum - am making this tonight :-). Not "French fries" though, from my memory they should be "Vlaamse friet", which are much more chunky.

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  6. This was one of my favorite meals at my mother-in-law's house (she was originally from Maastricht but emigrated to the US). Her recipe used 1/3 C sugar in the marinade, then a couple of T of flour to thicken the marinade after the meat had simmered awhile, Dipping french fries in that sauce - boy, oh, boy, was that good!

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  7. I have just returned home to Australia from Maastricht, where my daughter is studying. My first night in the town we ate at Rekko Eetcafe, Vrijthof and ordered their "Maastricht Beef Stew". We spoke with the chief and he told us all about it and renamed it Zuuvlees, for me. I did not know then what lies ahead for me. I absolutely loved it. The following day I had it on my Friet. Not as good. In the week I was there, I had it 3 times. I now want to make it.
    Thank you for the recipe and helpful comments.
    Mal

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  8. Cut off the dark 'crust' off of the ontbijtkoek it really helps the flavor in a positive way especially all those who are asking for a replacement for the ontbijtkoek. I often tend to use 'honingkoek' which I usually buy in Belgium at a supermarket called Delhaize.

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