Carbonnade a la Flamande

If you’ve seen my ratings over the past year, you’ll know that I love a good stew. Most stew recipes I’ve made have been some of my highest-rated recipes; usually 5-star. Unfortunately they can be quite expensive (see Best Beef Stew – $23 and 5-starsDenouement Beef Stew – $27 and 5-stars, Boeuf Bourguignon – $25 and 5-stars , and Daube Provencal – $36 and 4-1/2 stars). But before I made any of those, the first Chris Kimball stew I every made as this Carbonnade a la Flamande back in 2007. Now that I’ve sampled a much wider variety of stews, I wanted to revisit this first beer-based recipe to see how it stood up when compare to more traditional wine-based French stews. Long story short; this Flemish Carbonnade is faster, simpler and less expensive (about $15). It is delicious, 4-stars. However, it lacks the complexity of the French stews. Not only because wine is richer than beer, but also because this carbonnade has just 3 basic ingredients: meat, onions and beer.

This cell phone picture doesn't do it justice.

This Carbonnade recipe calls for a dark beer, but one that is more fruity than bitter. Chris Kimball tested 9 beers, and his top picks were:

  • Chimay Pères Trappistes Ale-Première, which cost about $10 for a 25.4-ounce bottle.
  • Newcastle Brown Ale, $8 per six pack.
  • O’Doul’s Amber (Nonalcoholic), $5 per six pack. Actually, Chris Kimball preferred this nonalcoholic beer to the Newcastle.


  1. I ended up overcooking the beef by about 1/2-hour, waiting for my kids to get home. I turned down the over to 200-degrees, but by the time they got home the beef was too tender and falling apart. Still, it tasted great.
  2. Sorry, I’m having camera troubles again. Back to my cell phone camera.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $14.50.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Dinner time 7:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here, and was also featured back in Season 7 of ATK. The descriptions of how I prepared the recipe today are given below:

3 1/2 lbs blade steaks (or any boneless roast from the chuck)
Table salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds yellow onions (about 3 medium)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken broth
3/4 cup beef broth
12-ounce dark beer
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

  1. Trimmed away any gristle or excess fat (but be careful not to over-trim). Cut your beef into 1-inch cubes. Adjust your oven rack to the lower-middle position, and pre-heat the oven to 300-degrees.
  2. Use paper towels to dry the beef cubes, and season liberally with table salt and pepper. In a dutch oven, heat up 2 teaspoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat.
  3. When the oil just begins to smoke; add one-third of beef to pot in a single layer. Do not move the pieces for 3 minutes, then use tongs to flip each piece. Cooking the second side for another 5 minutes. Transfer browned beef to a bowl, and repeat with 2 remaining batches of beef.  If at any point the bottom of dutch oven becomes too dark then you can add 1/2 cup of chicken or beef broth and scrape up the bottom of the pan. Pour the loosened fond and liquid into the bowl together with the browned beef.
  4. While the meat cooks, cut the onions in half and then slice about 1/4-inch thick. You should end up with about 8 cups of sliced onions.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the empty Dutch oven. The oil will heat quickly, then add onion slices, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon tomato paste. Cook for 5 minutes, scraping the bottom of pot to loosen the fond using the moisture release by the onion slices.
  6. After the onions have been cooking for 5 minutes, increase your burner to medium heat and continue to cook for another 12 to 14 minutes; stirring occasionally. The onions will become lightly browned.
  7. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add flour and stir for 2 minutes until the onions are nicely covered with the lightly browned flour. Add both broths, and continue to de-glaze the pan. Add bottle of beer, 4 thyme sprigs tied together with kitchen twine, 2 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon vinegar, the browned beef along with accumulated juices. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper; according to your taste.
  8. Increase heat on your stovetop to medium-high and bring to full simmer.
  9. Partially cover the dutch oven and place in a 300-degree oven for 2 to 2-1/2 hours. It will be done when you poke the beef with a fork inserted and there is little resistance.
  10. Finally, discard the bundle of thyme and the two bay leaves. Adjust salt and pepper, if necessary. Chris Kimball recommends serving over buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

3 Responses to Carbonnade a la Flamande

  1. […] Flemish (Belgian) stew recipe was first prepared by a friend who is an excellent chef, served with a side of baked new potatoes, […]

  2. Didier says:

    Goose Island Hex Nut Brown Ale is my go to beer for a carbonnade. For those who want more veggies in one dish, I part from the classic approach and add carrots with the onions, and froz peas at the end.

  3. […] You can find the full recipe in Cook’s Illustrated or view it here. […]

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