12 April 2017

Slow-cooker carbonade à la flamande

When I went to Intermarché, one of our local supermarkets, one day last week, I noticed that they had nice trays of what is called bœuf pour bourguignon, or stew beef, on sale for a good price. I couldn't resist, even though I hadn't planned on buying any meat.



Bœuf bourguignon, or beef Burgundy, is a red wine stew made with onions, herbs, stew beef, and mushrooms, and it's of course really good. The problem was that I had made a beef Burgundy just a couple of weeks ago, so I wanted something different. Walt and I talked about it, and somehow we came up with the idea of making a beef stew cooked in beer that's a Belgian specialty.



Or a Flemish specialty, really, because there are also recipes for the stew from the Flemish part of northern France as well as Belgium. It's called carbonade flamande or carbonade à la flamande. The main ingredients are beef and onions, and the cooking liquid is a combination of beer and either beef or veal broth.



There's also sugar in the recipe — some raw sugar (called cassonade or sucre roux), and some brown sugar (vergeoise brune) — along with bay leaves, thyme, mustard, wine vinegar, and spices including allspice and cloves. I had most of the ingredients in the house, and I made carbonade in the slow cooker. It is really good served with (it's Belgian) frites. The Belgians supposedly invented pommes de terre frites, which we in America call French-fried potatoes.

There are a lot of recipes for carbonade on the internet, of course, in French and in English. I also found one in the Larousse Gastronomique food encyclopedia. Here it is, in French. 

Carbonade à la flamande

Émincer 250 g d'oignons. Détailler en morceaux ou en tranches minces 750 g de hampe de boeuf ou de paleron, les faire colorer vivement dans une poêle avec 40 g de saindoux, puis les égoutter. Faire dorer les oignons dans la même graisse.


Disposer des couches de viande et d'oignon dans une petite cocotte en les alternant ; saler et poivrer à chaque fois. Ajouter 1bouquet garni.


Déglacer la poêle avec 600 ml de bière et 125 ml de bouillon de boeuf.


Préparer un roux brun avec 25 g de beurre et 25 g de farine, l'arroser avec le mélange à la bière, ajouter 1 c. à café de cassonade. Rectifier l'assaisonnement. Verser cette préparation dans la cocotte, couvrir et laisser mijoter 2 h 30 à feu très doux. Servir dans la cocotte de cuisson.
See the comments for my translation of the LG recipe.

I decided to sweat the onions with some of the herbs directly in the low cooker for a couple of hours on the cooker's high temperature setting, with some herbs and spices. Then I cut the meat into smaller pieces and added those to the cooker, without putting in any liquid. I let the meat cook for a couple of hours too, and it released some juices as it slowly browned.

Then I added the beer, broth, and sugar, including a squirt of molasses that I brought back from the U.S. in February — I didn't have any brown sugar but I did have cassonade (raw sugar) in the house. Molasses, called "black treacle" in the U.K., gives the flavor you want. With everything in the cooker, I let it cook for nearly 10 hours overnight on low temperature. It was just right at that point.

20 comments:

  1. Sounds divine! I have a slow cooker which I rarely use. Would be perfect...after Easter and our fasting

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    1. Our weather has turned slightly chilly again so a stew like this is good comfort food. I use my slow cooker a lot and it was a good investment. It also makes the house smell good when I'm cooking something good in it.

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  2. That looks sooooooo good.

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    1. It did turn out good. In all, it cooked for 14 hours, mostly on low, and it wasn't overcooked. Some recipes call for putting slices of pain d'épices in the stew, but I didn't have any. So I put pain d'épices spices in with the onions when I sweated them in the cooker.

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  3. Hello from North of France, We usually add pain d'épices in our Carbonnade. We add the pain d'épices spread with dijon mustard at the end to thicken the sauce.

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    1. See my comment to Ellen above regarding the pain d'épices. I did of course use Dijon mustard in the sauce, along with the pain d'épices spices.

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  4. Here's my translation of the Larousse Gastronomique recipe for carbonade:

    Flemish Carbonade

    Slice up ​​250 g (a half-pound) of onions.

    Cut 750 g (1½ lbs.) of stew beef into chunks or thin slices. Brown the meat well at high temperature in lard or vegetable oil in a frying pan. Drain well. Brown the onions in the same fat or oil.

    Arrange the meat browned and onions in layers in a small pot, alternating them. Season with salt and pepper. Add in a bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme, parsley, etc.)

    Deglaze the frying pan with 500 ml (2 cups) of beer and 125 ml (½ cup) of beef (or veal) broth.

    Prepare a brown roux with 25 g (1½ tablespoons) of butter and 25 g (2 tablespoons) of flour. When the roux is cooked, gradually pour in the liquid from the frying pan, stirring constantly, until it has thickened slightly. Add a teaspoonful (or more) of brown sugar (or raw sugar with a little molasses or black treacle). Adjust the seasoning.

    Pour this liquid over the beef and onions. Cover the pot and simmer for 2½ hours on very low heat. Serve right from the pot.

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  5. Here's another recipe. It's more detailed, with photos.

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  6. Which beer did you use? When I do this, I always try to find a dark or a heavy Belgian.... but I have a recipe that is identical to yours in the Orval cookbook.... I'll have to try that.... Orval is available locally at a very good price!!

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    1. I've never heard of the Orval cookbook.

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    2. I see what it is. Is the recipe in that book the one I posted within my blog. If so, I think the Orval people ripped it off from the LG.

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    3. Oh, and I used bière blonde — Kronenbourg. Basic beer.

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    4. Orval is a Trappist beer, made by the monks of the abbey of Orval, near Florenville in the Belgian Gaume region. So it's definitely not Flemish (lol). But its bitter-sweet flavour adds just the right touch to the carbonade! Bière blonde (or lager in the UK) is fine if you have no beer of high fermentation at hand. However, Kronenbourg is even less Flemish or Belgian ... it's made in the French Alsace. Having said that, Ken, your 'carbonade frites' looks absolutely delicious. Wish I had that plate sitting at the spot where my laptop is now.

      P.S. The Orval cookbook is probably edited by the Tourist Board of the Gaume region to promote their local products by using them in traditional Belgian dishes.

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    5. Hi Martine,

      What do you say about putting pain d'épices inthe carbonade?

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    6. Hi Ken, Well - to be honest - my (grand)mother's recipe does not include pain d'épices. A slice of bread with a generous spread of Dyjon mustard is the standard, and ... a special 'carbonade' spice mixture available in most supermarkets nowadays + a lot of thyme leaves, a bay leaf or two. I think your homemade spice mixture did the trick. Finally, don't use too much sugar or even avoid using it if you don't have a sweet tooth. A tiny dash of vinegar, however, will enhance the taste. But as they say in French: les goûts et les couleurs ... You know the rest :)

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    7. Ken and Martine,sorrt! The recipe wasn't in the Orval book... I have just looked... it was from the "Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook" by Ruth Van Waerebeek.
      I had written in there "Use Orval as per book" at the bottom of the page where it says "Look for a rich, dark and slightly bitter beer, such as Rodenbach, or a dark Abbey beer"... so Orval is fixed in my poor old brain along with the book!
      The above book was written for the American market and has lists of American sources of ingredients.
      I have always gone one step further than Abbey and gone Trappist... but the truest Flemish one from Westvleteren is only available from the Abbey shop... and Orval is usually cheaper than the three Chimays but blonder.
      An Abbey beer is not from an abbey.... but a Belgian "brewed in the style of" type... and are always cheaper than the true Trappist beers... but always lack the complexity.

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    8. For sorrt... please read "sorry".... and also, Ruth's mother added some liver or kidneys... and her grandmother always used "pain d'epices"... and she also suggests using redcurrant jelly instead of the brown sugar. She says that 'every mother passes on her "secret" to her children'...

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  7. So, you put the meat in raw to cook slowly first, without any browning. And that works, eh?

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    1. For me, that works. Sliced raw onions with herbs and spices in some fat or oil in the slow-cooker first for 2 hours on high. Then the raw beef added to cook for another two hours on high. Finally, the liquids, with the temperature down to low, for 8 to 10 hours (overnight). the cooking time depends on how tough or "mature" the beef is.

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  8. Every time you post one of your delicious meals I always end up hungry!

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