This French stew recipe, known as carbonnade, comes from the north of France in a region that is called Flanders. Flanders blends somewhat seamlessly with Belgium to the north, and although there is a political boundary, the cultural and gastronomic boundary is not so evident.

There is a lot of great eating in Flanders, and the cuisine is quite distinct from other regions of France. Flanders is home to one of the most popular of all dishes in France: the steak frites (steak and French fries).

In this French stew recipe, beef is slowly braised in beer. What beer you use will effect the outcome, and you may want to try the recipe several times to come up with your personal favorite. A good bet is to use a light beer such as a pilsner the first time. Watch out for dark beers, which may add interesting flavor, but risk to turn the stew bitter.

Carbonnade de boeuf

2 pounds stew beef
4 large onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoon sugar (raw or light brown)
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups of beer
bouquet garni (or use 1 teaspoon thyme and two bay leaves)
(optional: 4 slices slightly stale French bread spread on both sides with 2 tablespoons French mustard)
salt and pepper
Slice the stew beef into pieces about 1 inch by 1 inch. Peel and slice the onions. Peel the garlic.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven or other sturdy pot. Add the sliced beef and brown it on all sides. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper. You may have to do two batches depending on how large your pot is. Remove the meat and pour off the juices (reserve these).

Add one more tablespoon of olive oil to the pot, and add the onions. Cook the onions for 15 minutes on low to medium heat, stirring frequently. You want the onions to brown slightly and caramelize a bit.

After 15 minutes, stir in the crushed garlic, sugar, and vinegar and cook for 2 more minutes. Sprinkle the flour on top of the onions and stir to coat thoroughly. Add the meat and juices back to the pot.

Pour the beer on top of the meat, add the bouquet garni (or thyme and bay leaves), and stir everything to mix.

Cover the pot and simmer the stew on low heat for two hours or more. The stew should be just barely bubbling as it cooks. Towards the end of the cooking time season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the bouquet garni (or bay leaves) before serving.

If you wish you can place slices of mustard slathered French bread on top of the stew about half way through the cooking time. This will melt into the stew and add flavor and texture.

Makes 6 servings. (Leftovers are no problem - this French stew recipe tastes great reheated the next day).

This recipe comes from Easy French Food, a website dedicated to bringing you French recipes without a lot of fuss. Stop by EFF for another classic French stew: beef Bourguignon recipe. Bon appetit a tous!