Beef Carbonnade Flamande

beef carbonnade

We have the very first gathering of our cookbook club tonight – a real-life club in which we collectively choose a cookbook to cook out of, or a theme to stick to, and everyone makes something and brings it and we eat and laugh and cheers our good fortune that we all get to enjoy each others’ company on an otherwise regular Tuesday night.

Our first theme is family recipes, to celebrate our diverse pasts and presents, to recall where our parents and grandparents were born and raised and what they ate and how they got to be here, and how our families’ daily meals have evolved or stayed the same. (In fact, we started compiling our collective recipes into small eBooks, to raise funds for the UN Refugee Agency.)

Beef Carbonnade

I made my grandma’s Belgian beef carbonnade – a Belgian stew in which not-so-tender cuts of beef are braised slowly in stock and beer, creating an intensely flavorful sauce – and the only recipe I remember this particular grandma making. It’s very beefy, devoid of veggies save for onions and garlic, and is traditionally served over buttered egg noodles, although mashed potatoes are delicious too – you just need something to catch all that gravy. Her recipe is written over three (four?) pages in fancy longhand, but it’s really not that complicated – totally worth spending ten minutes browning meat at the stove. After that, the oven does the work.

(This would be divine with a slab of brisket too – just sayin’.)

Beef Carbonnade Flamande

canola or olive oil, for cooking
3-4 slices bacon, chopped
2-3 lb. (1.25 kg) stewing beef, chuck or blade, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
1 large onion, chopped or thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup (ish) beef stock
1 can or bottle heavy ale or dark stout (I used Big Rock Scottish Heavy Ale)
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
egg noodles or mashed potatoes, for serving
butter, for serving

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Set a wide pot or braising dish over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil and cook the bacon until crisp; transfer to a shallow bowl, leaving the drippings.

Brown the beef in the drippings on all sides, working in batches, sprinkling with salt and pepper in the pan and setting it aside on a plate as it gets browned and crusty on the edges. Add the onion to the pot and cook until golden; add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Add the beef stock to the pan, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Return the beef to the pot, pour over the beer, stir in the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and add the sprigs of thyme. Cover and cook for 2 1/2-3 hours, until the meat is very tender. Remove the lid, and if the gravy is too thin, set the pan on the stovetop and simmer uncovered until it thickens.

Serves 6-10.

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September 29 2015 | beef & bison | 2 Comments »

Garlic Cheese Buns

garlic cheese buns 1

On Friday, with so much zucchini/tomatoes/onions/spinach/chard in my kitchen I didn’t know where to put it all, I called an emergency after-work minestrone party. I made two batches: one in a giant pot, and another in the slow cooker. (The secret to minestrone that does not turn to mush in the slow cooker: add the zucchini, pasta and greens during the last half hour.) This kind of soup hardly warrants a recipe: saute onion, celery and carrots, add garlic, then a drained can of kidney beans (or black-eyed peas) and one or two thin-skinned diced potatoes, chicken stock and a bunch of chopped overripe tomatoes (or toss in any whole ones that might be lurking in your freezer) or a can of diced (or stewed, or whole) tomatoes, bring it all to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are just tender. Add a chopped zucchini, a handful of green beans with their stems trimmed off (if you have them), a handful of small pasta (I used ditalini) and tear in a couple handfuls of greens – spinach, chard or kale. Cook for another ten minutes or so, until the pasta is tender. If you have a Parmesan rind, this is the soup pot to toss it in. A spoonful of pesto is delicious too.

Garlic cheese buns 5

But. This is not what I’m showing you. I’m showing you the warm garlic-cheese buns that are perfectly suited to soup season. They’re essentially cinnamon buns, brushed with garlic butter and scattered with aged cheddar (or Gouda or Parmesan) cheese instead of the usual cinnamon-sugar goo.

Garlic cheese buns 4
Garlic cheese buns 3

You can assemble them the night before and let them rise in the fridge, or make the dough an after school project that will come to fruition just as dinner arrives at the table, making a meal of vegetable soup far more exciting.

Garlic cheese buns 2

Wind, rain and sleet? Fear not.

Garlic Cheese Buns

1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup milk, warmed
2 large eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. salt

1/3 cup butter, melted
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups grated aged white cheddar or Gouda
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

To make the dough, put the warm water in a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) and sprinkle with the yeast and a pinch of the sugar. Let stand 5 minutes, or until foamy. (If it doesn’t foam, toss it and buy fresh yeast.)

In a small bowl, mix the warm milk and eggs together with a fork. Add to the yeast mixture along with 3 cups of the flour and the remaining sugar; mix until well blended and sticky. Add the butter and remaining flour and stir or beat with the dough hook attachment of your stand mixer until you have a soft, sticky dough; knead for about 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. It will still be slightly tacky. Place back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in bulk. Melt the butter in a small dish and add the garlic; set it aside to infuse the butter.

To make the buns, divide the dough in half, shape each into a rough square or rectangle (this will make it roll out more evenly) and on a lightly floured surface, roll into a rectangle that’s about 10×15-inches (or slightly bigger, even) and about 1/4-inch thick. Brush each piece with half the melted butter (including the chunks of garlic – or not) and scatter with grated cheese.

Starting on a long side, roll the dough up into a log, and using a serrated knife, cut it crosswise into thirds. Cut each piece into thirds – this is easier than eyeballing it to get 9 even pieces. Place cut-side-up into two 8 or 9-inch round pans, placing one in the middle and the rest around it, or in an 8×8-inch or 9×9-inch square pan in 3 rows of 3. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for another hour, until doubled in bulk. (If you’re making them the night before, cover and place in the fridge for a slow rise; take them out and leave them on the countertop for 1/2 hour or so before baking.)

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F. Bke for 30-40 minutes, until deep golden. Let cool for 5-10 minutes, but invert onto a plate while still warm. Seve warm.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen garlic-cheese buns.

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September 20 2015 | bread and cheese | 6 Comments »

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