Belgian Beef Carbonnade
The sauce for this Belgian version of a beef stew uses dark beer to add depth of flavour and prunes to add a subtle sweetness, but that’s not to say that a rich red wine wouldn’t pair perfectly. Serve this with a winter salad with roasted pears and a hazelnut dressing and a loaf of crusty bread and you are ready for any cozy, winter’s night.
Serves 6 Prep Time: 20 minutes Cooking Time: 105 minutes
3 Tbsp (45 mL) vegetable oil, divided
2 lb (900 g) diced stewing beef, cut into 1 inch or 2.5 cm cubes
1/4 cup (35 g) all-purpose flour
Salt and black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 lb (225 g) cremini mushrooms, quartered
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 cup (170 g) pitted prunes, cut in half
2 cups (500 mL) low sodium beef stock
1 cup (250 mL) dark beer, such as a stout or porter
1 Tbsp (15 mL) packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp (15 mL) red wine vinegar
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
2. Place 1 1/2 Tbsp (22 mL) of the oil in a heavy-bottomed ovenproof medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat. In a bowl, toss the stewing beef with the flour and season lightly with salt and pepper. Shake off and reserve any excess flour, add half the meat to the pan and brown for 2 to 3 minutes, until dark brown, and then transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining oil and beef. Set aside.
3. Reduce the heat to medium and place the onions, celery, carrots, mushrooms and thyme in the saucepan. Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. The moisture from the vegetables will loosen any flour stuck on the bottom of the pan. Add the reserved flour and stir for another minute.
4. Stir in the prunes and then the stock and beer and bring to a simmer. Once the liquid is simmering, reduce the heat to reach a gentle simmer. Cover the pan and cook in the oven for 90 minutes, or until the meat is tender but not falling apart. (Alternatively, simmer the stew gently over low heat on the stove for 90 minutes.)
5. Immediately before serving, stir in the sugar and vinegar and season to taste.
A stew like this improves as it sits. You can refrigerate the cooled beef carbonnade in an airtight container for up to 2 days, or freeze it for up to 3 months. It’s a perfect dish to have on hand for a busy January weeknight! I like to dice my own beef for stew. A whole cut is often cheaper, and I can choose how lean the meat is (I prefer a boneless blade roast over an inside or outside round, which is too lean) and what size to dice it. As with any stew, cut the beef and the vegetables to about the same size.
Winter Salad with Roasted Pear, Feta and Hazelnut Dressing
When serving a salad as part of a casual supper, it is up to you when to serve it. It can start the meal, accompany the main course or even act as a palate cleanser and be served with a piece of cheese, after the meal.
Serves 6 Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes
4 medium-ripe pears (Bartlett, Bosc or Forelle)
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp (15 mL) pure maple syrup or 1 Tbsp (18 g) honey
1 Tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice
5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and black pepper
Salad & Hazelnut Dressing
12 cups (3 L) mixed salad greens, such as curly endive, Belgian endive, radicchio, frisée, oak leaf (feuille de chêne), arugula or spinach
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
3 oz (90 g) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup (32 g) chopped toasted hazelnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
2. For the roasted pears, cut each pear into 8 wedges and carve out and discard the cores. Toss the pears with the shallot, maple syrup (or honey), lemon juice, thyme, salt and pepper. Arrange in a ceramic or glass baking dish in a single layer and roast, uncovered, for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the pears are fork-tender. Set aside.
3. For the salad, drop a generous spoonful of the hazelnut dressing onto the centre of six salad plates and spread it out a little. Arrange the greens on top, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Arrange the warm pear wedges on the greens, and sprinkle with feta and chopped hazelnuts.
Adapted from Set for the Holidays, Appetite by Random House, 2018.