I first tasted traditional Belgian stew (sometimes called Carbonade Flamande), as a teen on a trip to Europe. The sweet-sour flavour combined with the tenderness of the meat made it an unforgettable dish for me. It’s a great make-ahead recipe similar to boeuf bourguignon, but prepared with beer instead of red wine. I’ve made it often since then, typically with beef as the Belgians do. Spying a packet of Elk stew meat cubes from the local Elk Ranch in my Farmers’ Feast basket from the Ottawa Farmers’ Market inspired me to reprise this dish and the results were spectacular. Elk meat has a rich flavour but not a gamey one; it’s also low in fat and cholesterol but high in protein, iron and Vitamin B. Choose whatever beer you fancy; a mild brew will make for a gentle-tasting dish although the Belgians tend to use a slightly bitter-sour brown or red beer to enhance the stew’s finished flavour profile. This stew is traditionally served with mashed potatoes, but my family also likes it over cooked egg noodles.
- 1 1/2 lbs (775 grams) Elk or beef stewing meat (in 1 inch/ 2.5 cm cubes)
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil (plus more, if needed)
- 2 large shallots or 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed
- 2 cups (500 mL) beer
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Dijon
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) dried
- Water, as needed
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Put butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy, oven-safe pot over medium-high heat.
- Put flour, salt and pepper in a small plastic bag. Add meat cubes, 10 or 12 at a time and shake in bag to coat with flour (you’ll need to hold bag closed as you shake).
- Carefully remove beef from flour bag, tapping off excess as you work, and add to hot pot. Don’t overcrowd the meat in the pot or it won’t brown nicely.
- Remove each batch of meat to a large bowl when nicely seared before adding more to pan.
- When meat is all browned, add a bit more oil if needed and sauté onions for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring often. When onions are translucent, add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Add about 1/2 cup (125 mL) of the beer and stir vigorously to scrape up the browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add Dijon and thyme and stir again.
- Return browned meat to pan and add remaining beer – the meat should be covered by about an inch (2.5 cm) of liquid. If more liquid is needed, add a bit of water.
- Bring the mixture to a boil then transfer to the hot oven and let it cook for 2 hours. Check once or twice and add a tiny bit more water if the liquid has evaporated somewhat and the meat is not covered.
- Note that dish can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 48 hours until ready to continue.
- Just before serving, remove pot from oven and add maple syrup and cider vinegar, stirring to blend evenly. Check taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Return to oven for 5 minutes.
- Serve hot over mashed potatoes or cooked egg noodles, preferably with a pint of your favourite beer in hand.
Serves 4 – 6.