Carbonnade and Pommes Frites
Carbonnade is a comforting beef stew reinforced with full bodied Belgian beer. Take your pick of side dishes from mashed potatoes, buttered noodles, crispy baguette, or my favorite paring – Pommes Frites. The tender, braised meat and full-flavored sauce are even better when accompanied by thick, fluffy, homemade French Fries. They should be tender inside the golden brown, crunchy corners of fluffy skin-on potatoes.
2 pounds beef chuck stew meat cut into 1-2” chunks
1 Tbsp fine sea salt
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
½ pound slab bacon, cut into ½” lardon
2 small onions, cut into 1” dice
2 Tbsp chopped garlic
¼ cup all-purpose regular or gluten-free flour
3 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
2 bottles Belgian ale like Leffe (11.2oz)
1 cup beef stock
2 pounds Idaho potatoes, washed
Vegetable oil for frying
Fine sea salt
Pommes Fries / French Fries
Blot the stew meat with paper towel to remove excess moisture and season well with the fine sea salt and black pepper.
In a heavy bottom skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil until shimmering and brown the meat over high heat. Depending on the size of the pot, you may need to do this in batches to keep the meat in a single layer for better browning. Remove the browned pieces as they are ready.
When the stew meat has been browned, add the bacon lardons and reduce the heat to medium. Render the bacon to golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove the bacon when ready.
Drain off excess oil to leave ¼ cup in the pan and add the onions and garlic, stirring to cook the onions to translucent with caramelized edges. Add the chopped garlic and stir to combine.
Add the flour and continue to cook, toasting the flour to golden brown.
Add 1 bottle of beer, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to deglaze any browned bits back into the sauce. Simmer and scrape until the beer reduces by half.
Add the browned meat, bacon, bay leaves, and thyme to the pot with the beef stock and remaining beer. Give everything a good stir to combine.
Bring the pot to a boil, skim any foamy bubbles, and reduce the heat to simmer for 2 hours or until the beef is tender.
While the stew is cooking, we can make the French Fries.
Cut the potatoes into ½” sticks. For added stability, make a ½” slice on one of the sides of potato to create a stable flat side. Turn the potato to use that flat side as a stable base and continue making slices and sticks until all of the potatoes are cut.
Rinse the potatoes under cold water until the water runs clear.
Leave the potatoes to soak 15 minutes and rinse the potatoes in water again.
Heat the frying oil in a pan over medium heat to 275F.
When the oil is ready, cook potatoes in small batches in the oil for 4-6 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.
Drain them on the prepared tray. At this point the fries can be stored in the fridge or freezer if making them ahead.
To finish the fries, heat the oil to 350F and fry the potatoes in small batches again until golden brown and crisp.
As you drain from the oil, give them a toss with fine sea salt to taste while still glistening to help the seasoning adhere.
When ready, serve the fries and stew together for a hearty meal. Adjust with salt and pepper to taste.
As always, the stew gets even better the next day so go ahead and make a big batch. I like to freeze some of the stew in portions for reheating in the future.
For more vegetables, I also like to add in button mushrooms cut in half and roasted in the bacon fat once the bacon is done. It’s not particularly classic, just delicious.
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