Welcome back to Marguerite’s Comfort Food/Beer Extravaganza of 2010. (Click here for part one.) Sheesh, I go out of town for a week and all I want to do is soothe myself with the most comforting of foods. Last night the time seemed right and Ryan and I braved the mall in the name of Christmas presents for those we love. Fearing the worst, the crowds were shockingly moderate and the canned music paired with shiny decorations were surprisingly energizing. It finally feels like Christmas. Although, that may be because most of the gifts I bought last night were for myself.
In anticipation of our difficult work braving the inclement weather and supporting the economy I had started this beef and onion stew a few hours before. Every time I decide to fix a stew (that word always sounds so unappetizing) like this or a boeuf bourguingnon-style dish (there, that sounds better) I feel a certain level of anxiety and dread that the preparation is going to take forever. Although the dish does take a few hours to complete from start to finish, the active prep time is only about 30 minutes. You begin by browning some meat and sauteing some onions, covering everything with a braising liquid (we chose a lovely Czech pilsner) and leaving everything alone in the oven for several hours. When we drove back to the apartment and parked the car on the street, we could smell the wafts of our dinner from the curb.
When I set my bags down and made my way into the kitchen I thickened the braising liquid with some cornstarch and boiled some egg noodles to serve as the base for the now thickened sauce. Served with a green salad and a more of the same beer, this made the kind of dinner that sticks to your ribs and warms you to the core.
carbonnades à la flamande (beef and onions braised in beer)
adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
yields 6 servings
3lb lean beef chuck roast or rump
2-3T pork fat or vegetable oil
1-1/2lb sliced onions
salt and pepper
4 cloves mashed garlic
1c beef stock
2-3c Pilsner style beer
2T light brown sugar
6 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
2T wine vinegar
buttered egg noodles
handful chopped parsley
Move the oven rack to the bottom third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare the beef by cutting in into pieces 1/2 x 4 x 2-inches thick. Dry with paper towels. Put a thin layer of the pork fat or oil in the bottom of a skillet and heat over medium-high until almost smoking. Brown the beef slices quickly (a few at a time to avoid steaming and and encourage browning) and set aside.
Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the onions, adding more fat or oil as necessary. Brown the onions for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and stir in the garlic.
In a dutch oven, arrange half of the browned beef and season with salt an pepper. Spread half of the onions over the beef. Repeat with the rest of the beef and onions.
Heat the stock in the browning skillet, scraping the brown bits off the bottom. Pour over the meat and onions in the dutch oven. Add enough beer to the meat so that everything is barely covered. Stir in the brown sugar. Bury the herb bouquet among the meat slices. Bring everything to a simmer, then cover and put into the preheated oven. Check on the pot throughout the next 2-1/2 hours to make sure the liquid is simmering. Regulate the heat as necessary. The meat is finished cooking when it is fork-tender.
Remove from the oven and remove the herb bouquet. Drain the cooking liquid from the solids and scrape off any accumulated fat. Beat the starch and wine vinegar together in a small bowl, then add to the cooking liquid. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Season to taste. Pour sauce back over the meat. Bring the heat back up to medium to warm the meat. Serve over buttered egg noodles with some chopped parsley.