For those of you who know me personally, you are all very well aware of my penchant for cooking with beer. From brats, to burgers, to steaks, and even cake, if it’s got beer in it, I’m all for making it! I am happy to report that to date, I’ve yet to be disappointed by this culinary mantra!
I happened to catch an episode of Melissa D’Arabian’s show the other day and she was making this stew she called belgian carbonnade. She immediately drew my rapt attention when she pulled out a bottle of beer that she termed as a “belgian” in a very nondescript green, no labeled bottle and proceeded to pour it’s golden goodness into her pot. Nondescript bottle of ale or not, I was immediately and irreversibly sold…
I then proceeded to do what any normal culinary zealot would do…I started scoring the internet to find all that I could about this belgian carbonnade business. A braised beef stew made with caramelized onions, some spices and belgian ale, this carbonnade sounded like a match made in heaven to me. A delicious, needed to be made on my stove asap, heaven!
The carbonnade didn’t disappoint in any way shape or form. Made in a single pot from start to finish, it’s relatively easy and doesn’t generate a huge mess in the kitchen. My only error here was not aptly anticipating how great it would be and just doubling the batch from the get go. The broth was rich, slightly sweet, hearty, and unbelievably delicious! I served it over buttered egg noodles, but honestly, the starch isn’t really even needed. The broth is just THAT good.
As far as beer selection, I decided to use a bomber of Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles. It’s not a traditional Belgian, yes I know, but Unibroue’s just one of those rare solidly consistent breweries churning out darn good Belgian style ales always. I chose the Trois for its dark, strong ale flavor, but also because it has a nice sweet finish. So, a glass for me, and the rest for the carbonnade!
Adapted from principia gastronomica
1lb cubed stewing/braising beef
4 slices bacon, chopped
4 medium onions, sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 bottle Belgian ale (preferable a dark strong ale)
1 14.5oz can of beef broth/stock
2 bay leaves
Pinch of thyme (fresh or dried)
Pinch of allspice
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons mustard (I used Harvest Ground Dijon)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Season beef generously with salt and pepper and brown it on all sides in a dash of oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed, oven safe pot. When meat is browned, remove beef and drippings into a separate bowl and set aside. With heat still on, add a bit of canned beef broth and deglaze the pot, swirling the broth around with a wooden spoon until all of the browned bits on the bottom of the pan have been dislodged. Pour deglazing liquid into bowl with browned beef.
Add chopped bacon to pot and cook over medium heat until bacon is browned and crispy. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside with beef.
Fry onions gently in pot with bacon fat until they begin to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes. Add brown sugar and continue cooking until onions have been caramelized and are a golden brown.
Stir in flour and cook with onions for 1 minute. Then add the beef, bacon and any accumulated juices to the onions in the pot.
Turn up the heat to medium high and gently pour in the bottle of ale. It will fizz and foam up initially, but that will dissipate very quickly. Add in remaining canned beef broth, this should give you enough liquid to cover the meat and onions. Add bay leaves, thyme, allspice, and some additional salt and pepper to taste.
Bring to a boil, then cover with a piece of parchment paper and then the pot lid. Place in oven and braise for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally until meat is tender.
Remove from oven, stir in a handful of chopped parsley and mustard to finish the carbonnade and serve over buttered noodles, spatzles or just by itself.