Les carbonnades – Flemish style beef short ribs braised in ale and grain mustard.
Healthy factor: medium-low
Time: about 30mn prep, 4hr cook time so plan accordingly.
- 3lb 10oz or so short ribs. (~ 1.8Kg) Note: you can use other cuts, but short ribs are fun
- 2-4 large slices of whole grain country bread, the type with a thick crust and hearty dough
- Strong whole grain mustard (In the US, try Maille mustard), alternately use a strong Dijon mustard and a tablespoon of mustard seeds
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil for the pan
- 1 oz (25g) butter
- 12oz (400g) onions, thinly sliced
- 1-2 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 Pint (500ml) dark Belgian ale
- 4-6 black prunes (for extra flavoring)
- 1 bouquet garni (1 sprig of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 6 sprigs parsley)
The ingredients – Click to enlarge
This is a family recipe twist of a well known succulent dish. It’s so rich and satisfying, with full bodied fatty flavors and yet still not off the charts in guilt factor. You’ll be better off eating these short ribs braised in ale than a glazed donut and coffee with creamer.
The origins are from Flandres, a region located between Northeastern France, Belgium and Holland. Hence the use of ale as a base for the ‘gravy’. Actually, the meat is braised in the beer, and this is where all kinds of magic happens. Add some country bread soaking in the pot, whole grain mustard, and the resulting sauce is thick, rich and complex.
The beer imparts its flavor, so don’t skimp and choose a good one. In this case, I used Chimay, which does bring the price of the dish up. But trust me on it, pick a good dark Belgian ale. The sugars and flavors will contribute trememdously.
Serve these braised short ribs with fried potatoes, mashed potatoes, or some cooked vegetables. Braised Brussel sprouts would be great, for example.
- Hopefully you have some nice short ribs such as the ones in the picture. Rub salt and pepper on the meat for seasoning, Rub your mustard on the slices of bread.
- Preheat your oven to 350F (180C). Meanwhile, put your oil in a pan and seal the meat on high flame for a couple minutes on each side, then set them aside. In the same pan, melt your butter, throw in the onions to cook them until golden brown, at which point you will throw in your sugar to lightly caramelize the mixture. Then, pour your vinegar and let it evaporate, leaving the acid and flavor behind.
- Pick a cast iron pot, or an oven safe casserole with a lid. Place the meat inside and surround it with the onions. Insert your slices of bread and herbs bouquet in the middle. Pour your beer into the saute pan from step 2 and heat it until it starts steaming, no need to boil it. You just need it hot to start cooking the meat later, and to deglaze your pan with. Also, you don’t want to pour cold beer in a hot pan. It might jump at you, or warp your pan. Pour the beer over the meat. Make sure there is enough beer so that the meat is simmering in it; cover your pot and braise in the over for 4 hours. Inspect it no more than once. Just let it go.
Ready for the oven – Click to enlarge
- By now, your kitchen should smell delicious. When the cooking is done, pull your dish from the oven and extract the short ribs. Place them on your dinner plates or a serving dish. Now return to your pot with the left over mixture, consisting of melted onions, beer, prunes, melted bread and seasonings. With a wooden spoon give it a good stir to break up some chunkiness, or leave it to your taste. This is now your sauce and you will pour it over the meat and the side vegetable. If needed, reheat the sauce over low flame, just to keep it hot until serving, which should be as soon as you get this out of the oven.
Out of the oven – Click to enlarge
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