Boeuf Carbonnade a la Flamande (Flemish Stew)
We started traveling in 2005 and for the next 7 years it became a bit of an addiction. We would hit around 23 countries mostly in Africa and Asia backpacking and traveling as locals which meant eating mostly street food. My culinary palette was stretched way beyond that of the typical world often visiting small tribal villages where their daily food was unique only to that region.
One of our first trips however was to Europe. We went from Amsterdam (Netherlands) to Belgium, France, Switzerland, back to France and finally Italy. We met up with a friend we knew from the States in Antwerp, Belgium who is from Antwerp and when we sat down to dinner in a local restaurant I asked him, “what is the most typical dish I can order here?” He said “Boeuf Carbonnade a la Flamande or Flemish Stew.
For the past 15 years I have made this meal countless times and it is always a big hit with family gatherings especially when ‘non-adventurous’ eaters are at the table. It’s is a simple stew and one of my wife’s favorites. The big difference between this stew and the French version beef bourguignon is that beer, typically a dark Trappist Belgian ale is used instead of red wine. Also there is a ‘sweet and sour’ element made by including vinegar and sugar and finally there are no vegetables, just meat and the aromatics.
This is also an extremely simple dish to make. So simple in fact we filmed a video of Terri-Lynn making it which is at the bottom of this blog. I think you will find it amusing. However it is time consuming as there are two very important parts that can not be rushed and also the beef will braise for about two hours so give yourself 3-4 hours total to make it.
- 2 lb. beef chuck, cut into 2″ x 1/2″-thick slices
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1⁄4 cup flour
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 2 cups Belgian-style ale, like Ommegang Abbey Ale
- 1 cup beef stock
- 2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 3 sprigs parsley
- 2 sprigs tarragon
- 3 bay leaf
As with most braises I use the cheaper cuts of meat. I found a nice piece with a big hunk of bone marrow in it. This will make the sauce super rich and yummy and I always prefer meat closer to the bone for flavor and tenderness. I am currently living in Spain and the beer selection here is limited, mostly light lagers and today is a holiday so most everything is closed so I had to settled with what I could find. Below is a short clip from when we were exploring the medieval town of Bruges. We spoke with the owner about the culture of Belgian beer.
Note: I also do not always have access to herbs as everything is seasonal so I am using dried herbs from my pantry.
- Chop beef into small cubes, season with salt and pepper and coat with flour. Now this is one of the 2 very important do not skimp because of time parts. Melt butter in a dutch oven or a large pan. Brown the meat and work in VERY small batches leaving plenty of room between pieces of meat. We are trying to get a nice color brown and NOT steam the pieces which would be cooking them. See photo below, this took me three batches. It took around 30 minutes but please do not just throw it all in at once, there is a big difference.
When finished remove meat and bone and set aside.
In the same pan add more butter your onions and caramelize. This is the other time consuming but VERY important step. It will take 30-45 minutes over medium heat. We are looking for a deep golden color and not burned. Almost like sweet onion candy. About half way through add your garlic.
When the onions are finished add half of the beer and allow it to reduce, about 5 minutes. Pour a glass for yourself at this point. Add the meat back to the pot along with the herbs, the rest of the beer, beef stock, apple cider vinegar and brown sugar. Combine well.
If you are using a large pot on a stove cover, lower heat and cook for about two hours or until the beef is tender. You can also place this in a casserole dish or use a dutch over and place it in the oven at around 300 Fahrenheit.
I have done it both ways and I prefer the oven method for the even heat.
And that is it! Traditionally this stew is served over noodles with rustic bread but we have also made mashed potatoes. I usually make my own egg noodles and my favorite recipe is Thomas Keller’s 7 egg pasta dough, but that is another blog.
Below is the video we made of Terri-Lynn making this dish, Bon Appetite!
I made a short video today of our day trip to the medieval town of Bruges, Belgium. It is a beautifully restored town. I placed it to one of my songs, “Price of Love” off of the album The Streets of Paris.
Terri-Lynn and I love sharing these recipes from around the world and of course we offer these along with our videos and photos at no charge. We are content providers and we rely solely on this small income along with google ads and our Youtube channel to survive. If you enjoy our content and would like to help support our en-devours one way of doing so would be to purchase my music. The song in the above video is available as a download for only .99 cents and you can also purchase the entire album too for only $9.99! Thank you, we really appreciate it. Below are direct links to my web site as well as some of the more popular platforms you may prefer.
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