When I was growing up, I was told that I was part Belgian on my mother’s side of the family. That turned out not to be true, because who ever heard of a Belgian immigrating to America? Apart from Liz Claiborne. And Audrey Hepburn, apparently. Also, the meat guy at our farmers’ market. Anyhow, even though I’m not Belgian after all, I still have a strong affinity for Belgian things. Waffles and fries and such.
Carbonnade is a classic Belgian dish–beef and onions stewed in beer with mustard. It’s pretty easy to make and it’s a really rich comforting dish for cold weather. The trick is to balance the sweetness of the onions, the bitterness of the beer, and the sourness and spiciness of the mustard. When I make it, I give myself a lot of time, because I like to adjust the flavor a lot as I go. Just remember when you’re testing it along the way to get some onion in the bite you’re taking to get the full effect.
1 lb. beef stew meat
1 12 oz. bottle of beer (I used Anchor Steam, try to use something dark and not too bitter. I made this once with a Pilsner and it was all wrong, so don’t do that)
1 red onion, cut in half and sliced
2 bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus 2-3 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon dijon mustard, plus more to taste
1/4 cup flour
Place a large heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat, with just a little bit of oil.
Combine the flour, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt on a plate. When the oil is hot, dredge the pieces of meat through the flour mixture and brown on all sides. Remove to a bowl and turn the heat to medium.
Add the onion to the pan, stirring occasionally and scraping the brown bits from the bottom.
When the onions have become translucent, about 5 or 6 minutes, return the beef, and add the beer, bay leaves, sprigs of thyme, salt, and pepper.
Stew for at least 2.5 hours, but the longer you can do it, the better.
When you are about half an hour from being done, add the mustard. Keep it handy, because you may want to add more depending on how yours tastes. Also, if you find it’s a little too bitter, you can add a little sugar.
Serve over boiled potatoes or egg noodles.
Looking for more hearty fall dishes? Try these: