Officially fall

October 31, 2015

Warmth in a bowl, right here.

Warmth in a bowl, right here.

I know it’s officially fall because (a) I’m sleeping in socks, and (b) I have made my first pot of carbonnades a la flamande.

Both of which occurrences signal the onset of cool, often damp weather. Both of which occurrences are very nearly a guarantee against the miseries of cool, rainy weather. Fall hath no fury when confronted by a pair of warm, fuzzy socks and a steaming pot of beef, onion and beer stew.

Few stews are as simple, as comforting, as downright good as this one. There’s a little prep work, but then it’s a long, slow braise in the oven or on top of the stove, a quick prep of some kind of starch to serve it over, and boom. There ya go.

I’ve blogged it before, but to keep you from having to hunt back, here’s the recipe and instructions.

  • 1 2- to 3-pound chuck or shoulder roast, or stew meat
  • 6 small onions
  • flour, salt, pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 12-oz bottle Green Flash Double Stout beer
  • Cornstarch (which you may or may not need)

If you’re using a chuck roast, cut it up into 1 1/2 inch or so chunks. Salt and pepper the meat liberally; put the pieces in a bag with flour and shake to coat. Brown well on all sides in a medium hot skillet in oil, and transfer to a Dutch oven.

Beef. Helps if it's local, farm-raised, grass-fed. Like mine.

Beef. Helps if it’s local, farm-raised, grass-fed. Like mine.

Peel and halve the onions and slice thinly; pour off the excess oil in the skillet, if there is any, and caramelize the onions, adding half a tablespoon of sugar if they’re slow. I use sweet onions because I like them; your mileage may vary. When the onions are a light brown, add them to the Dutch oven. Add the beer and beef broth, and bring to a low boil on top of stove.

Put a circle of parchment paper inside the Dutch oven, over the top of the stew, and put the lid back on, then move the whole thing to a 300 degree oven and go away for four hours. When you return, cook a starch of some description — rice, mashed potatoes, egg noodles (the canonical base for carbonnades). I personally prefer cream cheese grits. While those are cooking, move your pot back to the top of the stove over medium heat; remove the parchment. Add the mustard and the remaining half-tablespoon of brown sugar and stir in. If your stew needs thickening at this point, dip out some of the broth, stir in a tablespoon or so of cornstarch, and add it back. Let that cook over medium-low heat for another 20 minutes, and serve.

People. This will warm you from the tips of your cold little toes to the tip of your frostbitten nose. There is simply nothing like it for warming purposes. It also helps keep the damp away.

Beer of choice.

Beer of choice.

I have tried several different beers over the years with this dish. I’ve settled on Green Flash as the best of the bunch, although someone recently told me to try a Belgian lambic, specifically a Kriek, and I’m curious to see what the cherry taste would do to it. For years, I made it with Newcastle, and I’ve made it, in a pinch, with Negro Modelo or Yuengling when that was what I had. It’s worth the difference in taste to hunt down the Green Flash.

So don’t fear the fall. Or the winter. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em thumb your noses at the falling thermometer and precipitation, and spoon you up some carbonnades a la flamande, and stay warm.


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