My Recipes – Luke Chavez
Beer Braised Beef and Onion Stew
January 28, 2021
Flemish weekend delight
After a busy week of making quick afterwork meals, there is nothing I love more than spending some quality time in the kitchen over the weekend. Taking my time creating a meal is both meditative and an outlet for my creative energy. For me, nothing in the world of slow food is as satisfying as the art of braising. A gentle simmering pot filling the house with enticing aromas is my idea of a wild weekend.
For many years, one of my holiday traditions has been preparing Boeuf Bourguignon, which I make by carefully following a recipe by my original culinary hero, Julia Child. The recipe, as found in my well-worn copy of her seminal book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, is an elaborate two-day event that results in the most sublime example of beef braised in red wine. This past weekend I was craving something similar, but maybe with a less time-consuming production. After some research I came across several recipes for the Belgian dish Carbonnade a la Flamande, which consists of braising beef and onions in beer instead of wine. With just a few ingredients and plenty of time to simmer, the resulting tender beef was a perfect Sunday comfort food experience.
3-4 lbs lean beef chuck, cut into 1 ½" cubes
2-3 large sweet onions sliced 1/4" thick (about 6 cups)
Salt & fresh ground black pepper
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic minced
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 cups brown or dark Belgian beer (see notes)
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs fresh thyme destemmed
1 tbsp light brown sugar
Chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish
Allow cubed beef to sit at room temperature for one hour. In a Dutch oven melt half the butter with the olive oil over medium high heat. Generously season the beef on all sides with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the meat in the oil and butter, 3 minutes per side getting a nice brown crust on edges. Place browned meat in a large bowl and set aside. Don't be alarmed by the dark crusty bits that start forming in pan, it's what the French call fond, and is the foundation layer flavoring the braise.
Add the remaining butter and the onions to pan. Lower heat to medium and as the onions begin to release liquid scrape up browned bits at bottom of pan. Cook for 20-25 minutes till onions are a light caramel brown. Add the garlic and stir in for 30 seconds. Then add the flour and stir for a minute, till golden and bubbly. Next, slowly add the first cup of beer, again scraping up all the fond. When fully incorporated, add reserved beef with any accumulated juices, the bay leaves and thyme. Pour in 2-3 more cups of the beer, until the beef is just covered, and bring to a simmer. Cover pan with lid and lower heat to low. Check and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle slow simmer. The beef is done when fork tender, after about 2-3 hours.
When done, remove beef from pan and set aside covered. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the brown sugar. Keep stirring as the braising liquid reduces. Check the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Stir beef back into thickened liquid and turn off the heat. Allow to rest for 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with buttered egg noodles or boiled Yukon gold potatoes.
Look for a rich and malty Belgian brown ale, often labeled as Trappist style dubbel. You could also use a domestic Belgian style beer. I used Neddy's Brown Nut Ale made by our friends across town at Laht Neppur Brewing Co. Grab a growler to-go and you will have plenty of beer leftover to serve with dinner.
For added zing a tablespoon or two of stone ground mustard could be added at the same time as the brown sugar.
As with any braised meat this dish is even better the next day. If you have the time, consider making this a day in advance, and gently reheat on stovetop before serving.
Bon appétit, or as Dutch-speaking Belgians say, eet smakelijk!