Les Carbonnades Flamandes Flemish Beef and Beer Stew Adapted from The Belgian Cookbook, by Nika Hazelton
This is a simple recipe for Belgium’s most popular beef stew which is made with a dark beer, a dish I relished as a youth growing up in Brussels. Carbonnades is omni-present in every Belgium home where the recipe is passed down from generation to generation with each family having their own distinctive rendition. Over the years, I’ve added my own touch with including root vegetables. While a bit less authentic, I like the time I save on not having to make a separate side dish other than boiled potatoes, the dish’s classic accompaniment.
Like most stews, this improves with age. Make it several days in advance or throw it into the freezer for unexpected visits of those friends who will enjoy trying something different. When serving it to guests, I put my Carbonnades in an heirloom soup terrine which makes it look much grander than it really is.
¼ cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
¼ pound bacon cut into 1/2 - inch strips
2 Tablespoons sweet butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 large leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 12-ounce bottle of dark beer, preferably Belgian
3 carrots, cut into ½ rounds
3 parsnips, cut into ½ rounds
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf, crumbled
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried
1 slice bread
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1. Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Close and shake to mix together. Set aside.
2. Dry the pieces of meat with a paper towel. Add beef cubes to the bag with flour and shake to coat each piece evenly. Set aside.
3. In a large skillet, fry the bacon. When cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and put bacon pieces in a large Dutch oven. Pour off all but 2 Tablespoons of grease.
4. Brown the beef cubes in the bacon grease, making sure not to crowd the pieces. Add to the Dutch oven.
5. Add butter to the remaining grease in the skillet. Slowly brown the onions and leeks allowing them to caramelized, then transfer them to the Dutch oven.
6. Deglaze the skillet with the beer, scraping up any brown bits and bring to a boil. Pour beer over the meat in the Dutch oven.
7. Add the carrot and parsnips.
8. Add the sugar and vinegar and stir.
9. Add in the crumbled bay leaf and thyme and stir.
10. Spread the bread with the mustard and float on top of the stew. (It will disintegrate and help thicken the stew.)
11. Simmer covered over a low heat for about one hour, stirring periodically, or until the meat is tender. If stew becomes too thick, dilute it with a little water.
12. Serve hot in warmed soup bowls along with potatoes, boiled or mashed.
Beverage Recommendation: Plenty of cold Belgian beer or a fruity red wine like a Beaujolais or Grenache.