Carbonnade: Beef and Beer Stew

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When the cold season begins, so does the season for hearty stews. Known as Carbonnade a la Flamande, this Belgian Beef stew is made with dark beer and lots of onions.  It is highly recommend using a dark beer or stout with this recipe, as is typical of European beers. Lighter beers just don't quite cut it with this stew. 

3 1/2 lbs top blade steaks, 1 inch thick, trimmed of gristle and fat and cut into 1-inch pieces. 
(Can use any chuck roast if blade steaks are not available.)
Table salt and ground black pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 lbs yellow onions (about 3 medium sized), halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick (about 8 cups)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tsp)
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup low-sodum beef broth
1 1/2 cups (12 oz bottle) dark ale or stout beer
4 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp cider vinegar

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle postion; preheat oven to 300°F. Dry beef thoroughly with paper towels, then season generously with salt and pepper. On the stove top, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large heavy bottomed dutch oven over medium-high heat until beginning to smoke; add 1/3 of the beef to the pot. Cook without moving the pieces until well browned,
 2 to 3 minutes; using tongs, turn each piece and continue cooking until second side is well browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer browned beef to a separate bowl. Repeat with second third of the beef and an additional 2 teaspoons of oil. (If the drippings in the bottom of the pot are very dark, add half a cup of the chicken or beef broth and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen the browned bits; pour liquid into the bowl with the browned beef and continue.) Repeat again with 2 more teaspoons of oil and the remaining beef. Remove beef from the dutch oven.

2. Add 1 Tbsp oil to dutch oven; reduce heat to medium low. Add the onions, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and tomato paste; cook, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until onions have released some moisture, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and stir until onions are evenly coated and flour is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in broths, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits; stir in beer, thyme, bay, vinegar, browned beef with any of the accumulated juices, and salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a full simmer, stirring occasionally; cover partially, then place pot in oven. Cook until fork inserted into beef meets little resistance, about 2 hours.   

3. Discard thyme and bay. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Can serve plain or over egg noodles, rice, or potatoes.  Serves 6.


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