There is stew and then there is STEW, and this is the latter. Traditional Belgian Carbonnade, or beef stew, boasts a rich and flavorful gravy which features beer and fresh herbs. I like to use sorghum syrup instead of the traditional brown sugar; but brown sugar works deliciously if that is all you can find. This stew is one of those dishes best eaten hunched over a steaming bowl with a spoon in one hand and a hunk of bread in the other. As delicious as it is in its purest state, I throw some crushed up ginger snaps into the pot at the end of cooking for additional spicy sweetness and a beautiful thick gravy. It is a crowd pleaser, easy to execute, and will fill your house with the most delicious aroma. I like to serve this with roasted vegetables on the side.
Serves 4 hungry people
2 lbs. beef chuck, cut into 2 1/2 inch cubes
Fine kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 slices thick bacon, chopped
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, smashed
3 medium yellow onions, sliced
1 bottle of Belgian or Belgian-style ale
2 cups beef stock
1 tbsp. Sorghum syrup or dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs parsley
1 sprig tarragon
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
4 ginger snaps
1. In a medium bowl, season the beef with salt and pepper, then toss with the flour to coat.
2. Heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy bottom 6 quart dutch oven over medium high heat until the butter bubbles. Add a single layer of beef and brown on all sides transfer to a plate. Add another layer of beef and brown. Continue to work in batches until all of the week is browned. Cover the plate with foil and set aside.
3. Add the bacon to the pot and cook until slightly crispy, stirring frequently. Add the onions and garlic, and lower the heat to medium. Cook until softened and caramelized, about 20-25 minutes.
4. Pour in half of the beer and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any stuck on bits. Bring to a simmer. Return the beef, plus any juices, to the pot.
5. Add the beef stock, sorghum or brown sugar, remaining beer, and vinegar to the pot. Lay the bay leaf flat on a cutting board and lay the sprigs of thyme, parley, and tarragon on top. Roll the bay leaf around the herbs to make a bundle and tie with kitchen string. Drop the bundle into the stew. Add salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil.
6. Immediately reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours until the meat is tender.
7. While the stew is cooking, place the ginger snaps in a gallon size ziplock bag and lay on the counter. Using a rolling pin, roll and crush the ginger snaps until they are pulverized. Remove the bundle of herbs and add the crushed ginger snaps to the stew during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
8. Serve hot with crusty bread and roasted vegetables. The stew will keep well refrigerated for 3-4 days.