Saturday, July 9, 2011

Smoked Flemish Beef Stew

I've been really busy for the last few weeks with pretty much every aspect of my life. There's been a lot of work, and stress, and change; and yesterday, in the midst of a move, I decided to take some time to unwind while doing something I love: cooking with beer! What follows is the best recipe I've come up with for Carbonnades Flamandes yet. What makes this one really stand out is that I smoked the meat prior to continuing with the rest of the recipe. It gives it a great red color, and adds a ton of flavor that melds well with the rest of the dish.

For this recipe, I rounded up the following:

  • 2.5 pound cubed stew meat

  • 3 tablespoons flour

  • 1 teaspoon of salt

  • 1 teaspoon of course fresh ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder

  • 2 tablespoon peanut oil

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 3 large onions chopped

  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley

  • .5 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 750ml bottle of strong belgian dark ale

  • 1 container of beef stock

  • a splash of acidic flanders red or oud bruin

  • To start, mix the flour, salt, pepper, and onion powder in a dish. You're going to use this mixture to coat the beef before you cook it. If your meat chunks are large, this quantity should be sufficient to coat them, if you have smaller pieces at this weight, you may need to prepare some extra to deal with the extra surface area.

    Once you've got the meat coated, it's time to start warming up the grill. I used natural lump charcoal. For smoke, you can use chunks or chips for this recipe. If you use chips, soak them really well before you put them on the coals, you don't want a big explosion of acrid smoke all at once, you want a slow smolder. You can soak the chips with whatever you want. I soaked mine with beer!

    When the grill is good and ready, and the chips have just started to smoke, place a grill safe, non-stick performated grill pan on the grate, and arrange the meat chunks on top. Close the lid and let the smoke start penetrating the meat. After a few minutes, you'll need to start flipping the chunks. At first, as the fat begins to render out of the meat, the flour and spices will look a bit transparent and sticky, this is fine.

    You'll know you're done with the grill when the meat has taken on a deep red color from the smoke, with a bit of deep brown where the meat crisped a bit. When this happens, it's time to bring your smoked stew meat inside to throw in a large pan, heated to medium high heat with the 2 tablespoons of oil and butter. A lot of people use bacon in this recipe, but the first thing you'll notice when the meat hits the pan is that it already has a rich bacony aroma, so there's no need. Continue to cook in the pan until the meat takes on a deeper color. At this point, you're ready to add the onions, garlic, brown sugar, parsley, and thyme. Continue to stir the mixture until the onions have begun to soften.

    At this point, you're ready to pop open that beer. The first thing you want to do is pour half into a glass. That's for you!

    Next, take the remaining beer and pour it into the pan with your beef and onions.

    From here, open up the beef stock, and pour enough in to cover the meat completely.

    Cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and let this simmer for an hour and a half. This is a good time to empty the glass of beer you poured.

    When the meat is tender, splash in the flanders red or oud bruin to taste. You're trying to give the stew a nice acidity and bite that cuts through the rich sauce.

    That's it, Bon appetit!

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