Sunday, March 06, 2011

Belgian Carbonade: Best-known beer dish?

Here is perhaps the most famous gourmet dish cooked with beer. It's from my recent article on cooking with beer, in the Athens Banner-Herald, along with some of the description I used.

The more famous beer-based dishes, like Belgian Carbonnade and Welsh Rabbit (aka "rarebit"), are from regions that produce little wine. Necessity - perhaps in the form of plentiful stale beer and expensive, imported wine - probably mothered the inventions. Yet in the Germanic Alsace region of France, which produces excellent wine and good beer, a classical dish is Poulet la Bi re.

Arguably the top beer dish, Carbonnade is a richly flavored beef and onion stew from the Flemish regions of Belgium. Its traditional ingredient is dark, but lightly hopped, ale.

The recipe serves six to eight. It goes with boiled potatoes or buttered noodles. The traditional accompaniment is, of course, beer.

CARBONNADE FLAMANDE (Belgian beef stew with onions and beer)

2 pounds stewing beef (chuck or sirloin tip preferred)
2 tablespoons flour mixed with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil or rendered beef fat for frying
2 very large onions, diced
1/2 of large stick celery, diced
1 (12-ounce) bottle dark, low-hop beer, such as Sweetwater Georgia Brown or Belgian dark
2 large bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon dry ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon thyme
3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus to taste
2 tablespoons minced parsley for garnish

Cut beef into 11/2-inch chunks, removing excess fat. (For extra flavor, fry fat in stew pot. Remove cracklings and extra grease before frying meat.) Toss beef with flour mixture.

Heat stewing pot. Add several tablespoons oil or melted fat. Fry beef, half at a time, scraping bottom of pot frequently, until beginning to brown. Add more oil or fat if needed. Transfer beef to bowl.

Add more oil or fat to pot, if needed. Fry onions and celery over medium-high heat until starting to brown, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot.

Return beef to pot. Add beer, dry herbs and spices. Bring to boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer, stirring frequently. Add a little water if gravy dries. As beef becomes tender, 40 to 60 minutes, add salt.

When beef is fully tender, remove bay leaves and stir in ketchup and sugar. Simmer 5 minutes. Taste again. Add salt, as needed.

Serve with buttered noodles or potatoes. Sprinkle with minced parsley.

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