Beef Carbonnade (Belgian Beef and Beer Stew)

Beef Carbonnade (Belgian Beef and Beer Stew)

The cold just keeps coming in Orlando, so I knew I wanted a hearty, comforting meal. I was craving braised beef. The long and low cooking yields succulent and tender meat that melts in your mouth. What's amazing about this dish is that while every other braise I do includes wine, this Belgian stew gets is massive flavor from beer. 

Don't be afraid of the cider vinegar and prunes. They add a sweet and sour component underneath that adds complexity and makes this dish stand apart from any other pot roast or beef stew you've had before. Many recipes use brown sugar for the sweetness. I think prunes add much deeper flavor and they break down completely in the sauce.

Boozy Epicure's Beef Carbonnade (Belgian Beef and Beer Stew)
Serves 2 - I'm cooking for 2 so this recipe gives us dinner tonight and allows me to finish the leftovers for lunch tomorrow. If you are cooking for more (I've served this meal to guests with ease) it doubles for 6 perfectly, but can be scaled as big as you want. If your pot is big enough, making this for 10 is no more difficult that making for 2.

4 thick slices of bacon, cut into large lardons
2 medium onions, sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (what I use, vegetable oil works too)
1 lb brisket, cut into large cubes (can use beef chuck or any pot roast meat)
3 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tblspn all-purpose flour
12 ounces beer (dark or light, depending on your preference)
6 prunes
1 tblsp apple cider vinegar
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef stock

Serve with buttered egg noodles (cooked to package instructions) and parsley.

Prep your ingredients and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Little lardons, ready to render.

In a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, add the bacon, letting it render down it's fat and turns just slightly crispy. Take out the bacon, leaving as much grease as possible in the pot. Add your  onions, seasoning with salt and pepper, and cook over low heat until they are deep in color and caramelized, about 30 minutes.

Bacon out, onions in.
Onions halfway there.

Remove the onions from the pan (I add it to my plate of bacon), and add the oil. Turn the heat up to medium-high, season the meat with salt and pepper and sear, in batches if necessary, until it is browned on all sides.

Onions are done, time to brown the meat.
Meat browning.

Once the meat is browned, add the cooked bacon and onions back to the pan as well as your carrots and garlic. Sprinkle the flour over the top, stir, and cook for just 1 minute before deglazing the pan with the beer. Add the remaining ingredients and bring the mixture to a simmer.

Veggies back in the pot and flour stirred in.
My beer of choice for tonight.

Beer added and fizzing away...
The rest if the ingredients in the pot, ready to braise.

Cover the pot and put it in the oven to braise until the beef is tender, about 2 hours. After one hour give it a stir and push on the prunes to start breaking them down. When it is done, the meat will be really tender. Just pull out the thyme sprigs and bay leaf and serve on top of buttered egg noodles.

After 2 hours, the sauce is rich and concentrated while the beef is fork tender.

Notes About Tonight's Dinner
In the last 30 minutes that the carbonnade is cooking, I put a big pot of water on to boil (my electric stove takes forever) and build salads as a first course. I am amazed at how few people make salads at home when they are super easy and can be built exactly as you like. I've got an obsession with homemade croutons, and salad dressing is such geeky fun for me. I love trying new oils and vinegars. Tonight I used avocado oil, dijon mustard, sherry vinegar, and miscellaneous herbs to dress regular green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and shredded carrots. Tangy and delicious, crunchy and refreshing, salads make a perfect first course.

Instead of regular egg noodles, I boiled up store-bought spaetlzle. Spaetzle is traditionally an egg pasta that is pushed through the holes of a spaetzle maker (or colander) to achieve these lumpy, chewy noodles that are almost dumplings. Store bought spaetzle isn't quite as special, but the texture is a nice change from standard wide noodles and holds onto the sauce particularly well.

My noodles for the night.
Boiled, then mixed with butter and parsley.

I know what you are thinking....No wine? True, tonight I had water with dinner. I love beer for cooking, but not especially for drinking. So I had my water and my hubby paired dinner with a bottle of the same Newcastle I used earlier and said the pairing was perfect. If I were a beer drinker, I'd definitely drink beer with beef carbonnade, but the dish is so special on its own, I didn't want wine to interfere.

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