In Pittsburgh we are beginning to see the first glimpses of spring. As I write, rain and fog are rolling over the city -- an oddly welcome change after months of snow and ice. With Saint Patrick's Day festivities this weekend, we thought it appropriate to celebrate the coming end to winter with our streamlined take on the rich and unctuous Flemish Beer Braised Beef & Onions, Carbonnade de Boeuf. This dish uses beer for 100% of the braising liquid, so pick one you really like. I used my homebrewed brown ale, which has a rich toastiness and mild bitterness. Be careful using a bitter or hoppy beer, since the cooking will concentrate these flavors considerably. While this dish takes some planning ahead (around 4 hours start to finish), it is straightforward to make and works every time. Your house will be filled with the enticing aromas of caramelized onions, braising meat, and simmering beer. The dish is adapted from Anne Willan's excellent The Country Cooking of France.
Yield: Serves 4-6
- 2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 large onions, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 2 (12 ounce) bottles of beer (I used brown ale)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- To brown the beef & onions: Preheat a large braising pot over medium-high heat. Any medium-large pot with a lid will do, but the thicker the better.
- In a large zip-top bag, combine the beef, flour, salt, and pepper. Shake to thoroughly coat the beef chunks.
- Add the oil and butter to the heated pot and raise the heat to high. When the butter stops foaming, add your beef in an even layer across the bottom of the pot. Depending on the size of the pot, you may want to do this in two steps to avoid crowding the pan. Brown the meat on all sides, about 4-5 minutes per batch. Remove the browned beef from the pan, and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium-high, and add the onions. Cook the onions until caramelized, about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally during cooking to keep them from burning.
- For the braise: Add the beef and remaining ingredients (beer, thyme, nutmeg, bay, and mustard) to the caramelized onions. Use a wooden spoon to scraped the bottom of the pot. You want all the brown caramelized bits incorporated into your cooking liquid for maximum flavor.
- Cover the pot and transfer to the oven for braising. Cook for 3 hours at 350. Be careful when removing the pot from the oven. Remember the lid will be very hot. The beef should be just starting to fall apart, and the liquid reduced to a thick sauce.
- Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use. The dish reheats beautifully, possibly even improving on the 2nd and 3rd day. The dish is great with red cabbage, sauerkraut, or potatoes.