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-stars, Denouement 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 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.
- 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.
- Sorry, I’m having camera troubles again. Back to my cell phone camera.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Low/Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Dinner time 7:00 PM.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Increase heat on your stovetop to medium-high and bring to full simmer.
- 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.
- 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.