Thursday, June 21, 2007
June isn't exactly the typical season for stews but a week ago the weather was a bit chilly, chilly for June that is, (like my graduation) and I had been eyeing this carbonnade recipe for quite some time. Carbonnade is a hearty Belgian stew that centers around three main ingredients: beef, beer, and onions. The original Cook's Illustrated recipe recommends using a traditional Belgian ale or another dark ale or beer like Chimay, Newcastle Brown Ale, Anchor Steam, and Samuel Smith Taddy Porter. I only had Guiness at home, which the folks at CI said could make for a slightly bitter stew. So to balance this bitterness, I opted to use some sweet Vidalia onions rather than yellow onions. The stew was simple to make but really delicious and rich. We ate it over rice but you can also serve it over egg noodles or potatoes. Mmm... meat and rice, my type of meal.
- If you can't get top blade steaks you can substitute a chuck roast.
- Recommended ales: Chimay, Newcastle Brown Ale, Anchor Steam, and Samuel Smith Taddy Porter
- If you are using one of the four recommended beers, use yellow onions, using red or white onions with those beers can make the stew a bit too sweet.
- If you only have Guiness Stout like me, use sweeter red or white onions to balance the bitterness.
- Slice half the onions into 1/4 in slices and the other half into 1/8 in slices. The thinner slices will melt into the stew but the thicker slices will stick around and melt in your mouth.
Carbonnade a la Flamande
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated
3 - 3 1/2 lb blade steak, trimmed of gristle and fat then cut into 1 inch pieces
2 lbs yellow onions, 3 medium or 2 large onions (see note about slicing)
2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
3 Tbsp of AP flour
1 C chicken broth
1 12 oz. bottle of one of the recommended Belgian ales
Bouquet Garni: 4 - 6 sprigs of parsley, 3 - 4 sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves tied together with twine
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
Dry beef with some paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tsp of oil over medium high heat in a Dutch oven. When the oil is barely beginning to smoke add 1/3 of the beef. Cook the beef on the first side, without moving until browned, about 2 - 3 minutes. Then use tongs and flip the beef pieces over and brown on the second side. Transfer to a bowl, add more oil and repeat with half of the remaining beef. If the browned bits on the bottom of the pan are getting too dark, add some chicken broth, scrape up the brown bits, then pour this liquid into the bowl with the beef. Add more oil, and brown the remaining beef.
Reduce the heat to medium and add another tbsp of oil into the Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook until they are lightly browned. Add the flour and garlic. Cook until the flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, beer, and vinegar. Scrape up any additional browned bits, then add the beef and bouquet. I usually add salt and pepper now so the beef will pick up flavor as it cooks but I don't add too much salt since the stew will reduce a little and the flavors will concentrate. Salt to taste after cooking.
Increase the heat and bring the contents of the pot back up to a boil then lower the heat to a bare simmer. Simmer over really low heat for about 2 - 3 hours, or until the beef is tender. Discard the bouquet and salt to taste. Sprinkle with a bit of fresh parlsey and serve over rice or egg noodles or alongside potatoes.