Cross-posted from the official The World in a Skillet website.
When we initially started work on The World in a Skillet, we planned to devote a great deal more space to the history of immigration in the South. We wrote a lot of great material, but it quickly became obvious that if we were to include everything we had originally hoped to include, no one would be able to lift the finished book. This is a recipe that didn’t make it into the book. It was inspired by one of the subjects in our chapter on Europe.
Carbonnades Flamandes is Belgian comfort food. This simple stew of beef and onions simmered in beer is a classic dish that has stayed the same for centuries. The combination of beer and slow cooking tenderizes lesser cuts of beef and creates a hearty stew that will make any Belgian feel immediately at home.
In Belgium, chefs sometimes add a piece of gingerbread smeared with spicy mustard to the pot while the dish is cooking to add sweetness and spice while thickening the stew. Since gingerbread isn’t always easy to come by, we add the mustard and spices on their own.
What comes out of the oven is beef and onion stew transformed. The spices create an aroma that perfumes the kitchen. The onions will have melted to thicken the rich gravy, and the meat will be meltingly tender. This is the sort of dish that encourages sopping and instantly creates that sense of comfort that only a warm bowl of stew can create.
- 2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- 2 slices bacon, chopped
- 4 medium onions, sliced into thin rings
- 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 12-ounce bottle Belgian ale
- 1 1/2 cups beef stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tablespoon ginger, ground
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 8 medium waxy potatoes, boiled and quartered
- Fresh parsley, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or oven-proof pot over medium heat. Season the cubed stew meat with salt and pepper and add to the pot, working in batches if necessary to prevent crowding in the pot. Cook the meat for 3 to 5 minutes or until browned on all sides. Transfer the browned meat to a bowl.
- Deglaze the pot by adding 1/2 cup of beef stock to the hot pot and scraping loose any browned pieces of meat. Add the liquid and loosened bits to the bowl of meat.
- Add the chopped bacon to the skillet, cooking for 10 minutes or until crisped. Transfer the cooked bacon to the bowl of meat with a slotted spoon, reserving the bacon drippings in the pot.
- Add the onions to the bacon drippings and cook for 5 minutes. Add the brown sugar to the onions and continue cooking the onions, stirring frequently, for an additional 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft and slightly browned. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir well to combine. Add the meats and juices reserved in the bowl to the onions. Increase the heat to medium-high.
- Add the Belgian ale and beef stock to the meat and onions. Add the bay leaf, thyme, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and ginger to the mixture, stirring well to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cover the pot and transfer to the preheated oven. Cook slowly in the oven for 2 hours or until the meat is tender and the liquid has thickened.
- Stir in the mustard just prior to serving. Serve over boiled potatoes and sprinkle with fresh parsley.
While this stew is wonderfully rich when made with beef, it’s also wonderful when made with pork. You could also consider using this preparation for a rabbit stew. The slow cooking will ensure that the rabbit remains tender and flavorful.