Carbonnade a la Flamande… (happy sigh + a smile)… This traditional Flemish beef stew is made with strong Belgian ale and has deep, earthy, sweet and slightly sour flavors. The beef is so succulent that you will naturally classify this beer stew under comfort food. Comforting it is and also demanding of a Belgian ale to be paired with:) We obliged.
Actually, the idea to make Carbonnade a la Flamande was in part due to the fact that the Belgian tripel Chris made a few weeks ago is now perfect to drink. The other part was the outside temperatures stubbornly hovering in the 25-32°F range.
The carbonnade (/ˌkɑːbəˈnɑːd/; a French word that means
Given the history of the dish, there are a number recipes out there and even though they offer slight variations, the main ingredients are always the same. We chose a recipe by Nigella Lawson, my looong time favorite comfort food magician. Since her recipe can truly feed a group of 8-10 people (and what a great way to make an amazing meal for a large group without having to spend too long in the kitchen), we scaled it down a bit.
We went with the multi-award winning New Belguim Abbey, a Belgian style dubbel ale, brewed right here in our town. It has always been one of our most favorite Coloradan beers and New Belgium Brewing Co. is one of our favorite craft breweries. If you ever come to Fort Collins, be sure to take their brewery tour, we always take our guests and everyone loves it.
Otherwise, classic Belgian beer options include Chimay and Duvel, but you can also use the Ommegang Abbey Ale (OMG, is it good) and even consider a dark ale that is sweet with a strong malty backbone and not too hoppy.
This stew! I totally fell for the smoked lardons, we used hickory smoked pork jowl. Delicious, I tell you. I had bought some watercress for garnish because I thought its subtle, peppery flavor will complement the stew nicely. Chris is watercress-ed-out, since he uses it at work…perhaps too often, so he passed on the garnish. I loved it though. Other ideas include adding baked croutons and grated cheese on top of the stew while still in the pot, then placing the whole thing under the broiler for a minute or two.
Serving suggestions for Carbonnade a la Flamande
I made butter and heavy cream loaded mashed potatoes because I consider mashed potatoes the ultimate in comfort food sides. But carbonnade is often served with noodles or fries.
I can also see how the stew will pair well with white rice and an even better suggestion is to ladle some carbonnade into a freshly baked bread bowl. And to take this up a notch, why not a beer bread bowl? You can make your own if you follow Rachelle’s recipe for Beer Bread Bowls. She knows what she is doing.
Finally, just to be sure that we really emphasized this – this stew pairs perfectly with Belgian ales. Chris’ Belgian tripel was outstanding with this dish, and since we froze 2+ portions worth of stew for a rainy day (that will probably be tomorrow), we will pair it with something stronger, like a quad perhaps to see how that will work out.
Recipe for Carbonnade a la Flamande
- 2 lbs beef shank or chuck cut into small cubes
- 1 cup of smoked pork lardons or bacon cut into small pieces (pork jowl works great)
- 3 medium yellow onions (chopped)
- 1⅔ cups beef stock
- 2 cups dark Belgian ale
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp salt
- pinch of black pepper
- Turn oven on to 300° F.
- Heat a large heavy pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat and melt the butter.
- Add the lardons and cook them until crisp.
- In the meantime, in a large bowl mix the mustard, brown sugar and beef stock. Set aside.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the onions. Stir well and cook until translucent.
- Add the dried thyme and ground allspice and mix them with the onions and lardons.
- Add the beef cubes and turn them around a few times to be sure they sear on all sides (don't over do it)
- Dust the flour over the meat and stir.
- Add the beef stock, mustard and brown sugar mixture and stir.
- Add the beer and stir again.
- Turn up the heat and bring to a boil.
- Add the bay leaves, salt and pepper, give a final stir and cover with the pot lid.
- Put the covered pot in the oven and cook for 3 hours. Check to see if the meat is fork tender (it should be) and if needed cook for another 30 mins.
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