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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Boeuf Carbonnade

In the early 90's our family moved to Belgium because Leon had been assigned to work at NATO headquarters. We lived outside of Brussels in the Flemish village Erps Kwerps. The US government had hired a Belgian national to be a liason for family members. This woman, Giselle, aided Americans as we navigated life in a foreign country. She helped us communicate when our poor language skills created barriers (such as when we had to see medical specialists) and tried to educate us about the culture including the language issues (Belgium has three official languages). She shared this recipe with this title, although it may have been more correctly called "Carbonade Flammandes" or even more correctly (in Flemish) "Vlaamse Stoverij." I feel sure this is a Flemish peasant recipe in spite of its French name. The method of setting bread spread with mustard on top of the stew is authentic in Flemish instructions. As the stew cooks, the bread disappears and thickens the dish.


Boeuf Carbonnade 

2 pounds beef cubes, about 1-1 1/2 inch square (you’ll get a better product if you cut the cubes yourself from a chuck roast since stew meat is usually just scraps from any cut and may not have much flavor or tenderness)
2 T butter
2 large onions chopped
1 teas salt
1/4 teas pepper
1 teas dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bottles dark beer, preferably Newcastle Brown Ale unless you can get a good Belgian beer such as Geuze
2 thick slices bread, crusts removed
1 T mustard

Melt butter until it browns lightly and brown the beef.  Add onion and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in herbs and salt and pepper.  Pour in beer and mix well.  Bring to a simmer. Top mixture with bread spread with mustard (if the bread is quite stale, you may want to cut it into pieces before adding it--otherwise, the bread may remain in large lumps).  Simmer 2-3 hours until beef is tender, stirring several times.  If the liquid drops below the level of the beef add small amount of water—watch carefully as you come to the end of the simmer; you don’t want to turn this into a soup.

Serve with potatoes, rice or egg noodles. 


I've seen some noted cookbook authors, such as Dorie Greenspan, increase the flavor in this "stew" by browning bacon (as many as six slices) with the onions as well as adding some allspice and cloves. She also increases the onions.

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