Carbonnade is the Belgian version of French boeuf bourguignonne, only the meat is braised in dark ale instead of red wine. Chimay — a Belgian ale made by Trappist monks — is traditional in this dish. But you can experiment with other types of ale or even stout (a commenter below asks about using Guinness, which is ideal, and I’ve even used chocolate stout with nice results). Our interpretation uses bison (buffalo) stew meat, which you can find online and in many health-food stores. Ounce, for ounce, it has about 20% fewer calories and half the fat of beef. Grass-fed beef stew meat also works well here. Serve over egg noodles or our Celery Root, Potato and Apple Mash.
2-3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1-1/2 pounds bison (buffalo) stew meat, cut into 1-1/2 cubes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium onion, thinly vertically sliced
2 cups dark ale (such as Chimay Bleu)*
1 cup beef stock
1-1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and swirl in 1 tablespoon oil. Pat meat dry with a paper towel, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place flour in a shallow bowl and dredge meat in flour, shaking off excess. Add meat to pan and cook 4-5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. (Brown the meat in batches, using extra oil as needed, so you don’t overcrowd the pan.) Remove meat from pan.
Swirl another tablespoon of oil into the pan. Add onion and saute 5 minutes or until tender. Add ale to pan and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Cook 2 minutes or until until ale is reduced by half. Return beef to pan. Add stock. Stir in sugar. Add thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Cover and place in the oven for 2 hours and 15 minutes or until meat is fork-tender. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Adjust seasoning. Garnish with chopped parsley.
*Belgian ales like Chimay typically come in large, 750-ml bottles. If you substitute a dark ale sold in standard 12-ounce bottles, just use 1 bottle in this recipe and increase the stock to 1-1/2 cups.