How to Cook With DR BLUES – Carbonnade à la Flamande (Flemish Beef Stew)

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Beer’s Balancing Act

Cooking with beer adds a deep, earthy flavor to savory dishes such as chili, soup, and stew; and a nutty, caramelized flavor to baked goods. It’s great for just about every cooking technique, too: baking, braising, deglazing, battering, sauces, marinating, and simmering.

Here’s how it works: The hops used in brewing beer make it bitter by nature. However, the malt found in beer provides just enough natural sweetness to balance the flavor perfectly. In addition, foods high in sugars — vegetables such as carrots, corn, and onions (think caramelized onions) — are balanced by the bitterness. The bitter edge also helps balance very rich and creamy foods.

The Right Beer for the Right Recipe

Soups and Stews

  • Replace stock or wine with stout or ale in recipes for hearty beef stew or lamb shanks.
  • For a lighter dish like seafood or chicken, use your favorite wheat beer.

Go with something dark and rich, such as a porter, when making chili.

Tips for Cooking with Beer

Which Kind of Beer to Use?

Just like white and red wine, light and dark beers have distinctive flavor profiles. Often a recipe calls for beer without giving you an idea of where to begin. Here are some general guidelines for how to cook with beer:

  • Wheat beers are great with chicken and seafood
  • Ales, porters, and stouts are perfect for pork, beef, and lamb.
  • Belgian ales go great with hearty meat and game.
  • Nut-brown ales pair well with stews and cheesy dishes.
  • Fruity beers are good choices for desserts, unless your recipe specifically calls for a particular beer.

If you’re still overwhelmed with all of the choices, pale ale is a versatile choice: it’s hoppy, rich and fruity, without being overpowering. But, look out for the India Pale Ales (IPA’s): they might be great to drink, but are often too bitter to cook with.

You Get What You Pay For

Just like cooking with wine, what you put in is what you get out. So, while choosing the right beer to cook with don’t pick the bottom of the barrel. Use something you would enjoy drinking, because as you cook, the flavors will reduce and intensify!

What About the Alcohol?

Afraid that serving your kids some cupcakes or stew made with beer might get them, well, a little buzzed? Fear not. Beer does not have much alcohol to begin with (it’s mostly water), and as soon as you cook or bake with it, the alcohol evaporates quickly.

 Carbonnade à la Flamande (Flemish Beef Stew)

This classic Belgian beef stew is known for its sweet-sour combination of caramelized onions and beer. Any dark Belgian-style ale would be a good choice here. As with most stews, the dish will taste even better a day or two after it’s made.

Ingredient Checklist
  • Strong Dark PAINKILLER™


  • In an enameled cast-iron casserole, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Season the beef with salt and pepper and add one-third of it to the casserole. Cook over moderate heat until lightly browned, 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with 2 more batches of meat, using the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

  • Add the onions to the casserole, cover and cook over low heat, stirring, until browned, 8 minutes. Stir in the flour until the onions are well-coated, then slowly add the beer. Return the meat to the casserole along with any accumulated juices. Add the thyme and bay leaves, cover and simmer over low heat, stirring, until the beef is tender, 2 hours.

  • Uncover and transfer the meat to a bowl. Simmer the sauce over moderate heat until thickened slightly. Discard the bay leaves. Return the meat to the casserole and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with boiled carrots and potatoes.

Make Ahead

The carbonnade can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently.