Carbonnade a la Flamande is a traditional Flemish beef stew made with strong Belgian ale and has deep, earthy, sweet and slightly sour flavors.
The beef is so succulent that you will naturally classify this beef stew under comfort food. Comforting it is and also demanding of a Belgian ale to be paired with:)
Scroll down to the recipe card and video for detailed steps on how to make it or read on to learn about the history of the dish first.
Carbonnade a la Flamande Origins
The carbonnade (/ˌkɑːbəˈnɑːd/; a French word that means
Carbonnade a la Flamande Ingredients
Given the history of the dish, there are a number recipes out there and even though they offer slight variations, the main ingredients are always the same.
You will need
- chuck beef for stew, cut in small cubes and coated with flour
- fatty pork (lardons or smoked bacon) to cook as the base of the dish
- beef stock
- spices, brown sugar and mustard
- and of course – Belgian ale
We chose a recipe by Nigella Lawson, my looong time favorite comfort food magician. Since her recipe can truly feed a group of 8-10 people (and what a great way to make an amazing meal for a large group without having to spend too long in the kitchen), we scaled it down a bit.
Choice of Beer
Our ale pick is the multi-award winning New Belguim Abbey, a Belgian style dubbel ale, brewed right here in our town. It has always been one of our most favorite Coloradan beers and New Belgium Brewing Co. is one of our favorite craft breweries. If you ever come to Fort Collins, be sure to take their brewery tour, we always take our guests and everyone loves it.
Otherwise, classic Belgian beer options include Chimay and Duvel, but you can also use the Ommegang Abbey Ale and even consider a dark ale that is sweet with a strong malty backbone and not too hoppy.
This stew! Being a lover of smoked pork I am all for the tasty lardons in the carbonnade. We used hickory smoked pork jowl but you can use thick cut smoked bacon pieces too.
We garnished with watercress – its subtle, peppery flavor complements the stew nicely.
Other garnish ideas include adding baked croutons and grated cheese on top of the stew while still in the pot, then placing the whole thing under the broiler for a minute or two.
Serving suggestions for Carbonnade a la Flamande
Traditionally Carbonnade is served with wide noodles or fries. Both are great choices.
This time around I made butter and heavy cream loaded mashed potatoes because I consider mashed potatoes the ultimate in comfort food sides.
You can also serve the stew with white rice, but an even better suggestion is to ladle some carbonnade into a freshly baked bread bowl.
Finally, just to be sure that we really emphasized this – this stew pairs perfectly with Belgian ales. Chris’ Belgian tripel was outstanding with this dish, but so is the Abbey ale itself.
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Carbonnade a la Flamande - Beef Stew with Belgian Dubbel Ale
- 2 lbs beef shank or chuck cut into small cubes
- 1 cup of smoked pork lardons or bacon cut into small pieces pork jowl works great
- 3 medium yellow onions chopped
- 1 2/3 cups beef stock
- 2 cups dark Belgian ale
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp salt
- pinch of black pepper
- Turn oven on to 300° F.
- Heat a large heavy pot (with a lid) over medium-high heat and melt the butter.
- Add the lardons and cook them until crisp.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the onions. Stir well and cook until translucent.
- Add the dried thyme and ground allspice and mix them with the onions and lardons.
- Add the beef cubes, dust them with flour and turn them around a few times.
- Add the mustard and brown sugar and stir.
- Add the beef stock and beer and stir again.
- Turn up the heat and bring to a boil.
- Add the bay leaves, salt and pepper, give a final stir and cover with the lid.
- Put the covered pot in the oven and cook for 3 hours. Check to see if the meat is fork tender (it should be) and if needed cook for another 30 mins.
(This post was originally published on March 2, 2017 and updated to include a short recipe video and an updated picture of the ingredients (solely due to the fact that New Belgium Brewing changed the design of its labels.