When the days are cold, dark, and damp, all we really want to do is to curl up with a nice big pot of stew, right?
What Is Carbonnade Beef Stew?
Known as "Carbonnade a la Flamande", this Belgian beef stew is made with hearty Belgian ale and plenty of onions.
The flavor is a little sweet and sour, the sweet from the onions and either a little added sugar or tomato paste and the sour from a touch of mustard or vinegar.
Since I first posted this recipe I've made a few adjustments to the recipe itself, and we've received several recommendations for which ale to use (check the comments).
Why Use Belgian Ale?
The general view is that you should try to use a Belgian ale for this stew. If you can't find a Belgian ale or a Belgian-style ale, you can try Newcastle Brown Ale or Anchor Steam (the last two recommended by Cooks Illustrated for their carbonnade).
We found a couple of American ales made in the Belgian style at our local Whole Foods and for our most recent batch of stew used a bottle of Ommegang Abbey Ale.
Apparently, it is also traditional to include some beef liver with the stew. We passed on this, but if a stew exists that could hold up to the strong flavors of liver, this one would be it. Wonderfully hearty, flavorful, and filling.
Belgian Ale for Carbonnade Beef Stew
Belgium produces great ales, and for this recipe, a Belgian dubbel — one that's dark with a malty sweetness — works really well. It's the style typically used in a carbonnade. Try one of these Belgian-style ales (or a similar beer) that you can usually find at a local store.
- Ommegang Abbey Ale
- Chimay Blue
- Leffe Brune
- New Castle Brown Ale
- Sam Smith's Brown Ale
- Anchor Steam
Or, support your local craft brewer. Ask them what they have that's close to a Belgian dubbel.
What To Pair With Carbonnade Flamande
Potatoes are the most traditional pairing with this beef stew. Try mashed potatoes or French fries. Buttered noodles pair well, too. If you want to add some vegetables to round out the meal, try one of these simple veggie sides.
- Quick and Easy Asparagus
- Roasted Parsnips
- French Green Beans With Butter and Herbs
- Classic Glazed Carrots
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Storing and Freezing
Like most stews, carbonnade is even better the second day as the flavors meld together as it sits in the fridge. Go ahead and make and refrigerate the entire stew a day ahead or refrigerate or freeze the leftovers with confidence.
- Refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat until heated through and the beef reaches 145°F.
- Freeze in a freezer safe zipper bag or container for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator. Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat until heated through and the beef reaches 145°F.
Carbonnade Beef and Beer Stew
You are trying to achieve a sweet and sour flavor with this stew. You can swap out the sugar for tomato paste and you can use cider vinegar instead of mustard if you want.
You can brown the meat in vegetable oil instead of butter, though it will be more flavorful with the butter. You can also use a couple slices of bread, instead of adding flour, to thicken the stew.
Whatever ale you have used in the cooking makes for a great drink accompaniment to the stew.
3 1/2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons butter, divided
3 medium yellow onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chicken or beef broth
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) Belgian beer
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Brown the beef:
Pat the beef dry with paper towels, then season well with salt and pepper. On the stovetop, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Working in batches, brown the meat, without stirring, about 3 minutes on each side (do not stir, give the meat an opportunity to brown well).
Transfer the browned beef to a separate bowl.
Cook the onions:
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the Dutch oven; reduce heat to medium. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon of salt; cook until the onions are browned, about 15 minutes.
Add the flour:
Add the flour and stir until onions are evenly coated and flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
Add the liquids, seasonings, and beef, then simmer:
Stir in the broth and scrape the bottom of the Dutch oven to loosen any browned bits. Stir in the beer, thyme, bay leaf, browned beef with any of the accumulated juices, and salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a full simmer. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, let cook for 2 to 3 hours until beef is fork tender. (Alternatively, you can cook in the oven at 300°F.)
Stir occasionally, scraping up anything that is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
About 30 minutes before it finishes cooking, add the mustard and brown sugar. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Discard thyme and bay leaf. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Can serve plain, with potatoes, over noodles, or over French fries.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 49g||63%|
|Saturated Fat 22g||109%|
|Total Carbohydrate 13g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 5g|
|Vitamin C 3mg||17%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|