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.
See the comments for my translation of the LG recipe.
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.
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.