Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Carbonnade al la Flemande

One of our favorite restaurants is Belgian. We eat there often but I never ordered the carbonnade. A few weeks ago, my husband ordered it and I tried it. I instantly knew I had to make it. This is what I made the French bread for the other day. I read and read about the history of carbonnade and poured through recipe after recipe and concocted the one I am about to show you. We traveled to Belgium many times and I never ate it there either which I now regret. I was always too busy eating seafood.

You need 1/2 pound of slab bacon and 2 large chuck roasts.

Trim the meat and cut it into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Place it on paper towels to dry.

Cut the bacon into small cubes.

Fry the bacon in a bit of olive oil until it is crisp.

Mix 1/2 cup flour with 2 tsp. black pepper, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. of dried thyme. Add meat to the bag and shake it to coat.

Mince 6 cloves of garlic.

Remove the bacon from the oil and set it aside. Sear the beef on all sides until it develops a dark golden crust.

Thinly slice 4 large onions.

Do not cheat on this step. This is the key to great carbonnade as opposed to something with a nasty end result. Good Beer. I used Belgian Duchesse De Bourgogne. And wow, is it ever good beer. I was having trouble not sipping some at 7:00 am!

As you sear the meat, transfer it to a bowl.

This takes a bit of time but it is necessary to retain the flavor in each piece.

When the meat is done, leave the drippings in the pan.

Throw in the 4 sliced onions and stir around to loosen the brown bits on the bottom of the pot.

Pour in the bottle of beer.

Add 2 packs of Knorr's concentrated beef stock. Add 1 cup of beef stock.

Add the bacon.

Add the beef back in with any accumulated juices.

Add 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar, the garlic and 2 bay leaves.

I threw in a bundle of thyme but from now on I will use rosemary instead. I will explain why shortly. Add 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.

Spread 4 good pieces of bread with 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard. Don't use the bad store bought bread. Place them on top of the stew. They will disintegrate during cooking and add a complex flavor that is important to carbonnade. This is actually better if made a couple days ahead of time. The flavor deepens as it sits in the fridge.

Cover and place it in a 300 degree oven for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

I boiled some cubed Yukon Gold potatoes and then tossed them with salt, pepper and butter.

The finished stew.

This is often served with noodles or Belgian Frites.

When mine finished cooking, I tasted it and was disappointed that it did not taste like the one at our restaurant. So, I told my husband we were returning there to eat the same day I made this. I was pretty carbonnaded out but I had to figure out what I did wrong. We went to the restaurant and I ordered it. Mine was much better than theirs but I realized they use rosemary rather than thyme. It only cost me 24.00 to fine this out. So use rosemary!