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Beers to You: Authentic Belgian stew requires real Belgian ale

By Rich Ireland

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Until very recently, West Virginia beer consumers would have found it difficult to cook up an authentic Carbonade Flamande, a Flemish beef stew which happens to be Belgium's national dish. The stew requires a specific style of slightly sour Flemish ale be used in the making.

The Petrus line of Belgian ales has made its way into area beer retailers. Specifically, Petrus Oud Bruin (pronounced "Owd Broon"), meaning "Old Brown Ale," which on its own is a delicious, complex ale worth savoring. Oud Bruin has an even higher calling though. In this stew recipe, it's almost as important as the beef!

Petrus and many other fine Belgian ales are widely available around the greater Charleston and Huntington areas. Most Belgian aged and sour beers are considerably more expensive than your standard bottle of Bud, so be warned.

Here is my recipe for a real Flemish feast that will warm you to your ribs on these cold winter nights -- and don't hesitate to pair the very same beer with the stew!

Carbonade Flamande (Flemish Beef Stew)

2 pounds beef short ribs, cubed and patted dry

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 medium onions, sliced or chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Big pinch thyme

Pinch rosemary

Small pinch nutmeg

1 tablespoon gourmet mustard

Half stick butter

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 can beef consommé (Campbell's), thinned with 1/3 can of water

1 bottle (33 cl) Petrus Oud Bruin Flemish ale

ADD some salt and pepper to flour and coat the beef cubes lightly.

MELT butter and heat with oil in a skillet on medium (do not burn butter).

BROWN the beef cubes and gently turn to brown all sides.

REMOVE beef cubes. Add more oil and butter if needed to sauté onions and garlic in the skillet.

ADD beef to onions in skillet.

ADD thinned beef consommé, mustard and spices to skillet.

ADD a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

ADD a few ounces of the beer.

COVER and simmer for 90 minutes on low heat.

UNCOVER and reduce on low until stew thickens (at least 30 minutes).

ADD Oud Bruin beer (at least half the bottle) 5 minutes before time is up (to warm the stew).

DRINK any remaining Oud Bruin promptly and serve the stew either over pommes frites or with frites on the side.

Belgian Pommes Frites

Belgian Frites are all about technique.

Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into Wendy's-size fries.

Vegetable oil

Salt to taste

Mayonnaise for dipping (if served separately from stew)

WASH the cut potatoes completely in cold water to remove as much starch as possible.

DRY the potatoes thoroughly.

DEEP-FRY the potatoes at 300-325° for 5 minutes to "blanch" in the oil, drain and remove to cool.

ALLOW the potatoes to cool to the touch then deep-fry again at 375° until they reach desired color.

DRAIN, salt and serve.

For more on the craft of beer, see Rich Ireland's "Beers to You" blog at thegazz.com.


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