Carbonade flamande (or, since it hails from Dutch-speaking Flanders I guess I should call it Vlaamse stoverij) is my favorite Belgian dish–the perfect marriage of two Belgian specialities, beer and stew. Did I mention Belgians like stew? Or anything in a thick sauce that practically looks like a stew. Which I won’t complain about (aside for health reasons) because its quite frankly delicious. As for the origin of this dish, like most, its up for debate. One story says that it was invented by coal workers, or les ouvriers des mines de charbon, which is close to “carbonade” and not completely unbelievable considering Belgium was a huge coal mining area at one time.
As for the beer, a Belgian trappist is a must (why bother otherwise?!?!) and preferably a dubbel or trippel, though I’ve actually used Leffe Royale (a slightly darker, stronger blonde) and it’s come out well. Some really good ones I’d recommend would be: Maredsous 8 Brune; Achel Brune; Westmalle Dubbel; Trappistes Rochefort 8; Chimay Bleu or Rouge; or Saint-Feuillien Brune, to name a few.
Note: Unlike most dishes on this site that result in leftovers for my husband and I, this dish serves 2.
- 250 grams of stewing beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
- all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 50 grams of pancetta
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small- to medium-sized yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup of brown Belgian trappist beer
- 1 cup of water, plus more as needed
- 1 tbsp of white sugar
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper
Dice the beef, then toss with a bit of flour to coat. Next, add the butter to a large pot and once melted, add the beef. Once browned on all sides, transfer to a plate and set aside. (At this point the bottom of the pot may have quite a bit stuck to it from the floured meat, but this will come up later once the beer added, so not to worry.) Next add the pancetta for about a minute, then the onions. Cook until the onions have begun to caramelize, then add the garlic for an additional minute. Add the beer, scraping the bottom of pot until everything has come up and a nice thick sauce has started to form. Now add the beef back along with the water, sugar, vinegar, a dash of thyme and tarragon, bay leaf, as well as salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low. The beef should be covered with the sauce, so add more water if necessary. Stir occasionally and add additional water if the sauce reduces too much. Adjust any seasonings, if necessary.
Serve with boiled potatoes or french fries, and good bread.