When the in-laws come to visit, it’s time to bust out the big guns. Of course we’re talking culinary guns here. No need for the real thing. Especially if you have in-laws you like, which I hope you do. And whether or not you are lucky enough to like your in-laws, or co-workers, or random visiting dignitaries, when you have important people coming to dinner, the pressure is on.
A few weeks back, my in-laws came to visit. (If you’ll recall, they were witness to the skin-frying, too-hot-to-handle incident.) While I knew they wouldn’t care one bit what I served for dinner, they know I cook all the time, so I felt a little bit of pressure to deliver the goods. Show them I’m a good wifey and all. I went back and forth for at least a week before they arrived. Chicken or beef? Make ahead or made to order? Eventually I settled on Beef Carbonnade.
Beef Carbonnade is a classic Belgian dish comprised of beef cooked low and slow with beer and onions. As it cooks, the beef becomes meltingly tender. The onions cook down to an almost creamy consistency and give the sauce sweet onion flavor that melds perfectly with the malty essence of the beer. After a couple of hours in the oven, the stew is rich, savory, and utterly delicious. It just begs to be ladled over hot, buttered egg noodles or a pile of fluffy mashed potatoes – something to cradle all of the luscious sauce you will want to lick off your plate. Try not to do that though. Especially if you’re cooking for visiting dignitaries. Or if your mother-in-law doesn’t like you.
One Year Ago: Vanilla Sugar Cookies (So delicious. The first sugar cookies I've really liked.)
Adapted from The Best Slow and Easy Recipes
1 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 T. vegetable or canola oil, divided
4 oz. (about 4 slices) bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 lbs. onions, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp. dried)
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 T. tomato paste
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth
2 cups beer *
2 bay leaves
1 T. cider vinegar
* The beers recommended for this recipe are Chimay Ale, Newcastle Brown Ale, or O’Douls Amber – a nonalcoholic beer.
Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of the meat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is well-browned on all sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. (Turn the heat down if the bottom of the pot begins to scorch.) Transfer the browned meat to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining beef.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the bacon to the Dutch oven and cook until rendered and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of oil, the onions, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Stir in the garlic, thyme, and nutmeg. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the flour and tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the broths, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Slowly whisk in the beer and bring to a simmer.
Stir in the browned beef with any accumulated juices, the bay leaves, and the vinegar. Bring the stew to a simmer.
Partially cover the pot (leave about 1 inch open) and place in the oven. Bake until the sauce is thickened and glossy, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Remove the stew from the oven. Remove the bay leaves. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve hot over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.