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You will not be able to resist this dish from the north of France and Belgium, beef gently simmered in an unctuous sauce perfumed with beer. There is something very comforting about cooking a classic dish like this. It makes you think of times gone by, warm, cozy kitchens, full of family, friends and laughter and delicious aromas. Unlike French beef stews that use wine, carbonnade relies on the deep, dark flavour of Belgian style beer. But what really gives carbonnade its distinctive character is the addition of dark brown sugar and some vinegar, a delicious combination.
You can use a variety of cuts of stewing beef for this dish, chuck, beef shin even venison and wild boar work well. Cut the meat perpendicularly to the grain to make it more tender. For the beer, a dark or amber ale is best and allows you to stick with tradition. Leffe, Chimay or Newcastle brown ale all are good choices. To serve, the stew is traditionally served with crunchy french fries but can also be accompanied by braised endive, red cabbage or simply boiled baby potatoes with butter and parsley. I served it with french fries and it was a heavenly duo. Try it!

IMG_6504IMG_6505IMG_6506IMG_6507IMG_6508IMG_6509IMG_6510Serves 6

Ingredients:

1,5 kg / 3 pounds beef shin or chuck, cut into cubes
300 g / 10 oz lardons or thick bacon cut into small pieces
750 ml / 3 cups dark beer
3 medium onions, sliced thinly
8 echalots, sliced
4 to 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bouquet garni (thyme, parsley, sage, bay leaf)
500 ml /  2 cups beef stock (cube or concentrate is fine)
2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar
100 ml red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons strong mustard
6 slices of stale country bread or gingerbread
1 tablespoon flour
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 120 C / 250 F
Remove the meat from the refrigerator about 1 hour before cooking
Cut it into cubes, season it
Peel and slice thinly the onions and echalots and separate the rounds
In a large, heavy bottomed casserole, melt the butter over medium high heat
Brown the meat then remove from the pot and set aside
Add the lardons or bacon and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes
Remove and add to the meat
Add the onions, echalots and garlic, lower the heat and stir every now and then for 5 minutes
Stir in the sugar and allow the onions to caramelize a bit
Pour in the vinegar
Add the flour and stir to mix
Return the meat and lardons to the dish
Pour in the beer and the stock
Add the bouquet garni and salt and pepper
Bring to the boil then cover and place in the oven for 2 hours
Spread the mustard thickly on both sides of  the 6 slices of gingerbread
Remove the dish from the oven, place the bread on top of the meat
Cover and return to the oven for another 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours
Check the level of the sauce a few times, if too liquid, remove the lid and if getting too dry, add some water
Allow to rest 10 to 15 minutes before serving with french fries (see notes)
Enjoy

Notes
As with most stews this carbonnade is even better the next day, It can be made up to 2 days ahead and reheated before serving. To reheat,  you can reheat very gently on the stove or in the oven at 150 C / 300 F for 1 hour.  I often cook it the first 2 hours on day 1 and then refrigerate and on day two, add the bread and finish the cooking for another 90 minutes.

 

 

 

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