There are lots of reasons to dig into something hot and comforting this month—winter’s chill, short days and long nights, curling up with a favorite old movie or a hot-off-the press book.
Belgian Beef and Beer Stew (Boeuf Carbonnade) might be just the dish you want. It’s not easy for a beef stew to rival a wine-drenched Boeuf Bourguignon, but this one—with meltingly tender beef, caramelized onions and a full bottle of dark ale—really does. It proves that wine isn’t the only way to add great taste to a beef stew.
The stew is a terrific combination of sweet and sour. The sweetness comes from the caramelized onions and red currant jelly; the sour comes from the mustard and vinegar. Traditionally served with French fries (pommes frites), it’s also perfect for topping a bowl of egg noodles so you don’t miss a drop of the luscious sauce.
The flavors of this stew improve after a few days in the fridge, so it’s a great recipe to make on the weekend, then serve up later in the week when you want to get straight to that movie or book.
Belgian Beef and Beer Stew
A bottle of dark ale is the secret to this Belgian classic. All you need to accompany the stew is a crisp green salad and a bottle or wine (or beer).
3 pounds boneless beef chuck, trimmed, and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 yellow onions (about 2 pounds), cut into halves and sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (12-ounce) bottle dark ale (Belgian ale is best)
3 large thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red currant jelly
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Pat beef dry with paper towels; season generously with salt and pepper.
2. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil and a third of the beef. Sear 2 minutes on each side, or until well browned; transfer to a large Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining beef, using 2 teaspoons oil per batch.
3. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to saute pan; reduce heat to medium. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Cover; cook 5 minutes. Uncover and saute until onions are soft and golden, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and toss with onions 1 minute. Add flour; stir 2 minutes. Pour in broth; increase heat to a simmer. Transfer contents of pan to Dutch oven, scraping bits from bottom of pan; add ale and thyme. Bring to a simmer, stir well, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook until beef is very tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
4. Stir in mustard, jelly and vinegar; let cool completely and refrigerate. (The stew is best made ahead 1 or 2 days, and gently reheated). Serves 6.
Per serving: 434 calories, 24g fat, 63mg chol., 34g prot., 14g carbs., 1g fiber, 703mg sodium
Recipe by Laraine Perri, a food writer in New York City