This famous dish highlights the brilliance of Belgian chefs. At first blush it’s just another European beef stew like Irish beef stew or French beef bourguignon. All great dishes, but the beef stew from Flanders separates itself in two distinct ways. First, it is not braised in wine or broth like the others, but rather in sour dark beer from local abbeys. The addition, the Belgian dark beer gives the dish an intriguing background of sourness that is countered by the addition of sugar at the end.
The other element that makes beef carbonnade unique is the addition of lightly toasted brown bread that’s been coated with mustard, cut into strips, and mixed in at the end to both thicken the stew and introduce a completely new taste and texture to the dish. Carbonnade is usually served over buttered egg noodles.
Carbonnade a la Flamande – Belgian Beer Braised Beef Stew
- Large pot with lid
- 3½ lb Beef chuck or rump (or already cubed stewing meat)
- 6 slices Thick smoked bacon slices, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces (or substitute 4 tbsp olive oil)
- 3 medium Onion, chopped coarsely
- 2 tbsp Flour
- 64 oz Good Belgian dark beer (Guinness can substitute)
- 1 Bay leaf
- ¼ cup Fresh parsley, chopped (or ¼ amount of dried)
- 1 tsp Dried thyme
- ¼ cup Brown sugar
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 6 slices Dark whole wheat bread
- 4 tbsp Dijon or brown mustard, enough to cover 1 side of the each bread slice
- 3 tbsp Red wine vinegar
- Dry the beef with paper towels and cut into 2 by 2-inch cubes. Render bacon in a large, heavy bottomed pot with a lid over medium heat. Cook bacon until crisp and remove with a slotted spoon to reserve for later. Working in batches, brown the meat cubes on all sides and remove to a bowl. Repeat, adding a little olive oil if needed.
- Once all the meat has been seared and removed, add onions to the pot and cook 12 minutes, adding more oil if necessary. Add flour and continue stirring for about 1 minute to create a roux. Stir in beer and then return the meat and accumulated juices to the pot. Add all the herbs, salt, and pepper. Lower the heat to the lowest of lows, partially cover, and cook 3 hours. Turn heat off and remove cover. Dish can be refrigerated or frozen at this point.Spread mustard over slices of bread, with-or-without crusts. Put in a toaster oven to lightly toast. Remove, stack, and cut into ½ long strips. Save.Discard the bay leaf from the stew and turn heat back on to medium. Add sugar and vinegar, then press the bread strips into the stew to absorb the juices. Cook 5 more minutes and place in a serving bowl garnished with parsley. Serve over buttered egg noodles or French fries, and maybe some broccoli on the side.