Hello Siduri, I'm sure you will love this recipe!
Carbonade flamande (we call it "Vlaamse stoverij")
First of all, like many other stews, there are as many variations on this dish as there are cooks. It may have much to do with the availability of ingredients and the creativity of the cooks.
However, only these few ingredients are an absolute must;
- dark brown beer, preferably not too sweet. In my country we use beerstyles like either "Oud Bruin" (old brown), "Vlaams Rood" (flemish red) or "Abdijbier" (abbye beer).
- mustard, the Dijon version.
- thyme and a bay leaf
So which beer to choose? It has to be dark beer! I would suggest to go for the dark Leffe which is widely available in many countries or any dark abbye beer. If you can find Rodenbach, which is a "flemish red", then you have the very best of all to make this dish...
Usually we use the "tougher" cuts of beef, fit to be braised a long time. However, it's not unusual to use pork and even better, pork cheeks!
Best to use these two; a large frying pan and of course a large stew pot. Note for cast-iron stew pots; this method of using a separate frying pan will avoid to heat your nice Le Creuset's and other cast-iron pots to temperatures that will damage the enamel layer!
- Chop onion and start sweating on low fire in the stew pot. Add a few cloves of garlic if you wish (I do, but it's not a standard ingredient).
- In the frying pan, on high fire; sear the meat in small batches on all sides untill nicely browned. This is where a lot goes wrong; you only brown a few chunks of meat at a time on high fire and secondly you need to take your time for it. The color on the meat will render a darker stew which is highly wanted. Season each batch of meat with s&p and add each batch of browned meat to the stew pot on top of the onions.
- When all the browned batches of meat are in the stew pot, sprinkle a good tbsp of plain flour over it, turn the heat higher, mix both onions and meat gently. The flour needs to cook for a while.
- Back to the frying pan which now looks very darkbrown from frying the meat. Open up a bottle of the beer you chose and pour it in. Use a wooden spoon to scratch all bits from the bottom of the pan while heating the beer. Add this to the stew pot. Fill the bottle of beer with plain water and add that too. Posh chefs add beef stock instead of water. The beer needs to be diluted like this to avoid too strong beer flavour.
- add all other ingredients; sprig of thyme, bay leaf, I add a few roughly chopped carrots which are not standard ingredients in this dish. I also add a tbsp of dark brown sugar but you can use "appelstroop" which is kind of a very thick apple syrup.
Finally, spread a generous layer of mustard on a slice of white bread and put it on top of the preparation. The bread will slowly disintegrate when cooking and thicken the sauce.
- put all of this on low fire to braise for in general some 90-120 minutes. Just check with the point of a knife for doneness. Add 15 minutes each time it seems underdone.
- very important; at the end of the cooking time, you need to taste for seasoning. Not only s&p but mainly for the balance. If it's too sweet, add a tbsp of wine vinegar.