Carbonnade - Belgian Beef, Onion, and Beer Stew

Carbonnade - Belgian Beef, Onion, and Beer Stew

I’m no thrill seeker. No desire to skydive, get in a shark cage, or take a lap at the Brickyard. My mother tells me that my first word was “dangerous” so whether my cautiousness was natured or nurtured, its been with me from near the beginning.

Despite being known as a food guy, I’m not really all that bold in my culinary choices either, especially when it comes to the animal kingdom. My meat menagerie is small - cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and a few sea creatures.

When faced with a plate of duck - Daffy, Donald, and Jeremiah Puddle pop into my head. It’s a good thing there are no beloved turkeys in the cartoons and nursery rhymes of my youth. Being a finicky meat eater doesn’t bode well for globe trotting. One of my closest friends is well-traveled and an adventuring eater. I frequently eat sushi with him and he’ll consume some wild-looking stuff while it is still alive and wiggling. Talk about fresh seafood. 

My own international travel destinations have been pretty safe, when it comes to food. In England and Scotland, I could read the menus and know exactly what to expect when my plate arrived. One food-safe destination I would like to visit is Belgium. Any place known for waffles, fries, and beer sounds good to me. Although I’ve not been to Belgium, I have eaten in several Belgium restaurants in London (like this one) and, closer to home, at Brugge Brasserie in Broad Ripple. 

Belgium culture, as well as their cuisine, is fascinating. With influences from the Romans, Vikings, Spanish, French, Germans, and Dutch it is said that the Belgians cook food with the finesse of the French and serve hearty portions of the Germans. One of the national dishes, Carbonade is an amazing stew of beef, onions, and beer. Familiar but just deliciously different enough to be amazing. 

With the cooler fall weather just around the corner, this Belgian stew is perfect, especially if you have friends or family that lack culinary daring. If you look for a Belgian imported beer for this recipe, seek a dubbel-style. If you can’t find that, any amber beer will do nicely. 

Carbonnade- Belgian Beef, Onion, and Beer Stew

  • 3-1/2 pounds chuck roast, trimmed of any gristle and fat and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt, ground black pepper, and garlic powder
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds yellow onions (about 3 medium), peeled, halved and sliced very thin
  • 2 medium cloves garlic , finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 12 ounces beer
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Dry beef with paper towels, then season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil begins to smoke. Add the beef to the pot in about three batches. With each batch, cook without moving pieces until well browned, about two to three minutes. Turn each piece and continue cooking until second side is well browned. Transfer browned beef to bowl. Add additional oil if needed for the other batches.  

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the Dutch oven and reduce heat to medium. Add onions, garlic, salt and black pepper to taste. Add tomato paste and cook, scraping bottom of pot with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Add flour and stir until onions are evenly coated and flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in chicken and beef broths, again scraping the pan to loosen browned bits; stir in beer and add thyme, bay, vinegar, browned beef with any accumulated juices. Salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to full simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover Dutch oven and place it in the middle rack of the oven. Cook for 2-1/2 hours.  

Discard thyme and bay. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste and serve over buttered noodles or mashed potatoes. Makes about 8 servings.

Originally published on September 27, 2007

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