You know your Beef Bourguignon. You have probably wowed your friends with your Coq au Vin. Now, how about ditching that wine for some hearty beer in your pot? It’s time to introduce Carbonnade Flamande to your friends and family.
Make a big pot of this rustic, rich, thick and velvety Flemish beef stew and serve it Belgian style, over everyone’s favorite French fries. Trust us, it will hit all the right Stew Spots...
If you ask anyone what’s their kinda comfort food, many of them are coming to some delicious, long simmered big pot of soup or stew.
Some kind of magic always happens when you throw in any kind of meat with the simplest of ingredients and let it cook for a long time. Every culture and cuisine has their special pots that take a long time, but create exquisite meals.
We have so may distinctive and delicious stews and soups jam packed with flavors on GypsyPlate. From Hungarian Chicken Paprikash to Southern Brunswick stew, Cuban Ropa Vieja to Filipino Menudo, there are just so many flavors to explore in your pot of stew.
Today, we thought to see what some of the European countries throw in their stew pot and came across this very rich stew from Belgium.
It’s simply made with beef, beer, copious amounts of caramelized onions, and a few other important flavorings…
What is Carbonnade Flamande
Carbonnade à la Flamande, or Carbonnade Flamande, or sometimes simply shortened to Carbonnade, is a Flemish beef and beer stew. It’s very popular in Belgium, the Netherlands and parts of France.
The “Carbonnade” is a French word for thick stew of beef and onions along with herbs cooked in beer. This is believed to have originated in French Flanders, in the north east part of France, just south of Belgium.
Due to the proximity to its neighboring countries, this stew is a shared traditional and classic dish for Belgium and France, as well as the Netherlands. Since most of the times, deep and rich Belgian ale is used in the stew, Carbonnade à la Flamande is mostly known as a Belgian or Flemish stew.
What makes Carbonnade very unique is plenty of caramelized onions, which impart great flavors, along with beer. All is spiked with some kind of spiced bread, mustard and lots of fresh herbs.
All these sounds a little strange, but the spiced bread thickens and seasons the stew. Ginger bread is most commonly used, with a dollop of mustard spread over, then it’s just left to float on top of the stew.
Over time it completely disintegrates into the stew, creating an amazing flavor profile and thickening the stew.
Deep and dark Belgium beer gives great earthy, rustic taste.
All this with fall apart tender beef morsels in a thick, velvety sauce. You are in for one delicious and satisfying stew.
Of course, as it has been well loved across so many regions, you come across many different versions and cooking techniques, as well as quite heated debates over what kind of Belgian beer or what seasonings go in the pot. But in the end, all of them turn out great.
It’s also served very peculiarly… over French fries! That’s a very common sight all over Belgian kitchens and restaurants. How cool!
Ingredients for Carbonnade Flamande
- Bacon – A great start!
- Beef – We used chuck roast. It’s great in stews where the meat is simmered into melt in your mouth tenderness when cooked slow and low. Look out for a great marbled chuck roast, as when all that fat melts in, you end up with a very delicious stew. Simply cut the chuck roast into chunks of your desired thickness.
- Onion – You need a large amount of onions, compared to other beef stews. The whole idea is to caramelize them, to impart that unique taste to the stew.
- Aromatics and Herbs – Garlic, thyme, rosemary.
- Belgian beer
- Beef broth
- Brown sugar
- Ginger bread
- Salt and pepper
What kind of beer to use
The two most common types are Flemish red ale or Belgian brown ale. Each will give distinctive flavors.
Flemish red ale is sour with fruity hints. It is often described as the most wine-like of beers.
We went with a brown Abbey style ale, specifically a tripel. It is slightly sweet and fruity, with a bit of bitterness. It went wonderfully in this stew.
How to make Carbonnade a la Flamande
Season beef chunks with salt and pepper generously.
Fry your bacon in a dutch oven, then crumble and set it aside. Remove excess bacon fat, leaving behind 2-3 tablespoons in the pot.
Brown the beef chunks on all sides without overcrowding the pot. Set it aside.
In the same pot, sauté sliced onions till they caramelize to a nice golden brown color. Add in garlic and sauté for a minute. Add in flour and sauté till it gets a little brown.
Add in beef chunks along with beer, beef broth, brown sugar and fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme (we made a bouquet garni with them by simply tying them with kitchen twine, so at the end of cooking you simply remove all the big stems together). Stir well.
Spread mustard over the ginger bread slices and place them over the stew. Close the lid and cook for 15- 20 minutes.
Stir the bread into the stew and again cover. Cook for one and a half to two hours, or until the beef is melt in your mouth tender.
Make sure to stir it every now and then. During the last half hour, cook with the lid off to allow the stew to thicken.
Taste and adjust the seasoning like salt and pepper. Some people like to add in a dash of red wine vinegar or cider vinegar but we skipped it, as we just loved the concoction before us…
What to serve with Carbonnade Flamande
The most common sight in Belgium would be this beef stew over a pile of French fries. Yes, French fries. It’s a very Belgian thing. We tried and highly recommend it, it’s finger licking delicious!
Though Carbonnade is usually just a hearty beef and onion stew, it’s not that unusual to see some people throwing some carrots or even potatoes into their stew pot. You can always play with it, as it becomes more of a go to dish in your kitchen.
How long to store this Belgian Stew
As with any other stew, its flavors get accentuated as it sits in the refrigerator for a few days. Store it in an air tight container in the fridge up to 3-4 days for future meals.
This would freeze well too, up to 3-4 months, so go ahead and make a big batch.
So there you go, stew season is still full in swing. Try these new Flemish flavors in your home and get a big pot brewing with beef and onions. All you have to do is hunt some ginger bread, or some kind of spiced up bread, and REAL Belgian beer for this new beer stew.
Let us know how you like these new rich flavors. Oh yes… this stew turns up pretty rich, so you might get full even after a few spoonfuls. And yet, keep on going as it’s so irresistibly gooood. Chow for now, and stay warm…
Carbonnade Flamande, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 6 strips of bacon
- 3 lbs chuck roast, cut into chunks
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 2 12oz cans Belgian Beer (we used Abbey style tripel)
- 3 cups beef broth
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 7-8 sprigs thyme
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 4 slices ginger bread
- 2 Tbsp mustard
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- Cook bacon in a dutch oven or heavy pot over medium high heat. Cook until brown. Crumble and set it aside.
- Remove excess bacon fat, leaving behind 2-3 tablespoons in the pot. Season beef with salt and pepper. Add beef to the pot and brown on all sides. Do not overcrowd the pot, work in batches if necessary. Set it aside.
- In the same pot, sauté onions till caramelized to a nice golden brown color. Add in garlic and sauté for a minute.
- Add in flour and sauté till it gets a little brown.
- Add in beef chunks along with beer, beef broth, rosemary, thyme and sugar. Stir well.
- Spread mustard on the ginger bread slices and place them over the stew.
- Close the lid and cook for 15- 20 minutes. Stir the bread into the stew and again cover and cook for one and half to two hours, or until the beef is melt in your mouth tender. Make sure to stir it every now and then. During the last half hour, cook with the lid off to allow the stew to thicken.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning like salt and pepper.
- Serve it with French fries or mashed or boiled potatoes.
Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.
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