I am currently working my way through a cookbook that has thus far served up some delicious meals for my wife and I. It is called “making the most of Onions”, contains over 70 delicious recipes for onions, garlic, shallots, leeks and chives, and is compiled by Brian Glover. I picked it up from a yard sale because I love onions, and the entirety of the cookbook contains pictures. I cannot handle cookbooks without pictures of the recipes included-I find them to by dry and unexciting. Perhaps I am alone on this? Regardless, my most recent attempt was the Beef Carbonade, and it was a big hit in my house. I honesty did not have a clue what I was in for when I started cooking it, but the meal turned out to be the ultimate pub-style fare. Imagine yourself in a well-put together pub in the proud Irish tradition. You are surrounded by dark-stained wood that is worn from frequent use. The lights are a bit dim, and the walls have the original brick and stone peeking through in various places. Only good beer is served, and the food is the perfect reincarnation of traditional Irish grub made with loving care and served to patrons who expect to be well-fed and well-satisfied. This is the image that this recipe gave to me as I indulged in the robust flavours. I highly recommend you try this. I will most definitely be making it again!
I used Lezajsk, which is a Polish Lager brewed by Leżajsk Brewery, a subsidiary (unfortunately) of Heineken. The brewery claims to have come into existence in 1525, when the King provided the town with exclusive brewing rights. Although this is contested, the brewery is definitely quite old and can trace the methodology and brewing of its beer for a significant amount of time. I don’t want to dwell on the beer to much, as the focus of this post is more on the food, but it is worthwhile metioning that, although the recipe called for a dark beer, I found this choice to be the right one-it fit the meal perfectly, and was a nice beverage to drink alongside the meal as well. So, here is a brief review of the beer before I jump into the recipe:
Appearance: It is a clear golden yellow beer that has very light beading. The head disappears almost immediately, and leaves a light misting on the top. A pilsner glass may help it to hold onto the head a little longer, which is what I will use next time around. There is light carbon flow when the beer is disturbed, but none at rest.
Nose: A nice sweet hops and honeycomb that is not overwhelming nor mild. I also found a hint of oregano that gave me hope for things to come.
Mouthfeel: A high carbonation with a nice level of bubbliness which tickles the throat and gives a nice overall feeling. It is a smooth beer that has a refreshing wetness.
Taste: The beer starts of as a basic lager-with light hops and the expected hints of honey. However, there is also the tingling presence of walnuts and almonds, as well as a light apple aftertaste.
Overall: I enjoyed this beer. I was actually mildly surprised at how much I enjoyed it-there was a simplicity that was not too simplistic that it was bland or tasteless. The flavours that it contained, although not diverse, where strong and represented themselves well. And again, it was perfect for the recipe and meal that I was creating.
My rating: ◊◊◊◊◊◊/◊◊◊◊
Now to the recipe itself. The ingredients are not difficult to find, and you likely already have a great deal of them in your pantry (or at least you should!)
- 3 Tbsp: vegetable oil
- 3 onions, sliced
- 3 tbsp: flour
- 1/2 tsp: mustard powder
- 2 1/4lb stewing beef, cut into cubes (amount approximate)
- 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 11/4 cups: of beer (recipe calls for dark, I used the Lezajsk)
- 2/3 cup: water
- 1 tsp: brown sugar
- 1 fresh thyme*
- 1 fresh bay leaf*
- 1 piece of celery stick
- salt and pepper
For the Topping
- 1/2 cup: butter
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 tbsp: mustard
- 3 tbsp: chopped fresh parsley*
- 3 slices: bread
- Preheat oven 325°F.
- Cook onions in 2 tbsp of oil on low heat until softened.
- Mix together flour and mustard, and season. Toss the beef in the flour, add remaining oil to pan, and brown the beef all over on high heat. Transfer beef to casserole dish.
- Reduce heat and return onions to pan. Add garlic and cook briefly, then add the beer, water, and sugar. Add the thyme and bay leaf as well as the celery. Bring to a boil while stirring, and season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the sauce over the beef, mix, cover tightly, and place in the oven for 21/2 hours.
- For the topping: cream the butter with the garlic, mustard, and 2 tbsp of parsley. Spread this thickly over the bread and layer the bread, buttered side uppermost, on top of the casserole after the casserole has been in the oven for 21/2 hours.
- Increase the oven temperature to 375°F (or broil)-until the bread is browned.
- Dish onto plate (I tend to pour the beef on top of the bread rather than using it as a topping). Sprinkle with parsley, and enjoy!
A final note: I enjoyed the Beef Carbonade with baked potatoes, using all my favourite seasonings, as well as mushrooms fried in olive oil, seasoned with oregano, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Delicious!