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Boeuf Beerguignon — Flemish-style Beef Stew

December 7, 2009

Boeuf Beerguignon

Of the gifts offered to us by Heaven and Earth, is born, by the grace of St. Arnold and human knowledge, the Divine Juice of Barley

“The above transcription, translated here from the original Latin, is engraved on the front of the magnificent Flemish Renaissance building that stands in the heart of Brussels on Grand Place. The building is called Maison des Brasseurs, and it is the brewers’ guild house, a splendid architectural testimony to the importance of the brewers and the influence of the brewers’ guilds in the life and history of Belgium.

“One of the favorite expressions in my country is that the Bordeaux and Burgundies of Belgium are beers. Beer is certainly the national drink of Belgium, which offers the largest variety of any nation in the world.”

Everybody Eats Well in Belgium Cookbook
by Ruth Van Waerebeek

Our experience of frequent dining at The Brewer’s Art in Baltimore and re-creation of their Shellfish and Potatoes Steamed in Belgian-style Ale inspired me to delve further into Flemish cooking with beer. What better place than Oregon to explore cooking with beer as well as wine. We are home to some of the finest Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris vineyards as well as a plethora of excellent micro-breweries, many of which pay homage to the mother country of beer with various expressions of that style of brewing.

A beef stew appears on the tables in many cultures and countries. France has “boeuf bourgninon” as well as “daube de boeuf Provençal”. Belgium has “vlaamse stovery” or “les carbonades Flamandes”. Mexico and the Southwest have “carne guisada” which translates as “meat in gravy”. In Ireland it’s called, of all things, Irish stew and more times than not, it contains a liberal glug of Guinness Stout. Here in the US of A we have, well, beef stew and being as we are the self-proclaimed melting pot of the world, we often make it any way we wish.

Boeuf Beerguignon or Flemish-style Beef Stew

William Ritter of Willing to Cook Personal Chef Service is my go to guy for all things beer. He steered me to Wreck the Halls holiday brew from Full Sail Brewery in Mt. Hood, Oregon. According to William, Full Sail didn’t make any of this brew last season and took a heavy email beating. It’s back this year.

  1. 2 pounds (1 kg.) boneless beef stew meat cut into 2 inch (5 cm.) cubes
  2. 1 teaspoon (5 ml.) salt
  3. 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml.) freshly ground black pepper
  4. 3 tablespoons ( 45 ml.) all-purpose flour, more as needed
  5. 4 tablespoons (60 ml.) unsalted butter
  6. 2 pounds (1 kg.) onions, thinly sliced
  7. 1 28 0unce (.8 kg.) canned whole tomatoes
  8. 4-6 medium-size Yukon gold potatoes, cut into large bite-sized pieces
  9. 2 large carrots cut into bite-sized pieces
  10. 1 red bell pepper cut into a medium-sized dice
  11. 1 22 ounce (.65 lt.) bottle of Belgian-style ale or beer, more if needed
  12. 1 teaspoon (5  ml.)Worcestershire sauce
  13. 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  14. 2 bay leaves
  15. 1 1×4 inch (2.5×10 cm.) orange peel without the pith
  16. 1 1/2 tablespoons (23 ml.) red currant jelly (or brown sugar)
  17. 1 tablespoon (15 ml.) cider or red wine vinegar.
  18. Fresh Italian parsley for garnish

Note: Throughout the following browning process, keep a watchful eye and be prepared to adjust your heat as needed to avoid any burning. (Removing the pan from the heat when adding more butter is a good plan.)

  • Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper then dredge in the flour, shaking off excess
  • Melt 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) of butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Don’t let your eyes stray, burned butter means you will need to clean the pan and start over.
  • Working in batches, add beef cubes to the pan and sauté until browned on all sides. Do not crowd the pan. Add more butter as needed. (I supplement some of the butter with vegetable oil to eliminate some of the butter.)
  • Remove the browned beef cubes to a Dutch oven large enough to hold all your ingredients
  • Add more butter/oil to the pan and slowly brown the onions.  Turn the onions but not too often. You want them to slowly brown.
  • When the onions are just right, add them to the beef cubes and deglaze the pan with the beer, scraping the bottom to loosen those browned bits of flavor on the bottom.
  • Add the beer to the Dutch oven along with the tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, orange peel and Worcestershire.
  • Simmer the mixture, covered, over low heat until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
  • Add the potatoes and carrots in the last hour of cooking
  • Add the red bell pepper during the final 15-20 minutes. (timed solely to preserve the brilliant red color).
  • Add the red currant jelly (or sugar) and the vinegar at the very end. Add the garnish and serve.

Serves 4 – 6

Just as tradition suggests that one drink the same wine with which you cook coq au vin, serving the same brew that’s in your stew would be excellent.  Wreck the Halls is one of those brews that will not appeal to those whose beer tastes lean to the lighter or lager styles. However, it does meld beautifully with the other ingredients and assumes a major but complementary flavor layer in the stew. If light or lager is your taste, one of the fruity Belgian-style lambic beers flavored with fruit would be delicious. The Belgian fruit lambics are not difficult to find, as well as domestic lambic-style brews. Look for sour cherry, peach and raspberry. My mind was dreaming about these when we were enjoying this dish.

From the brewmaster at Full Sail Brewery:

“Wreck the Halls is a holiday brew to end all holiday brews. It’s aggressive and sublime, assertive and mellow, complex yet drinkable, and it has a lot of hops in it. Wreck the Halls is an American style IPA crossed with a winter style strong ale. The finest Pale malt along with Crystal and Caramel malts give this beer a sweet malt body and a red color. The famous centennial hop is used to give this beer a pronounced fruity-citrus character. The beer is dry hopped, (the process of steeping aging beer on fresh hops), which amplifies its aromatics and flavor. Wreck the Halls will be available in 22 ounce bottles and on draught through December. ABV 6.5%, IBU 68.”

Bon appétit

— Charles

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