Thursday, November 1, 2007

Clothilde Dusoulier's Carbonades Flamandes/Flemish Carbonades

When you have invited company over for a meal, the weather is crisp and cool, and you don't want to be running around like a crazy person the day of the party, repeat after me: braises are your friends.

Braises, which tenderize meat through slow, gentle cooking in liquid, call for inexpensive and flavourful cuts of meat, are really hard to screw up (no fiddly timing or techniques), provide vegetables, protein and luscious sauce all in one pot, improve overnight, and please everyone at the table.

An earlier date in October marked L's parents' 35th wedding anniversary, so of course we invited them over for a celebratory dinner. Deciding what to make for a dinner like this inevitably leads me to internal struggle... do I go with something safe and perhaps a bit ordinary, or gamble on something new and both potentially fabulous and potentially a disastrous failure?

Thankfully, I found a solution. After flipping through a few cookbooks, I settled on Clotilde Dusoulier's recipe for
Carbonades Flamandes/Flemish Carbonades for the main course (you can read an interesting history of carbonades at her blog, Chocolate & Zucchini). We all love its southern cousin, boeuf bourguignon, and braises are very easy to tweak and equally tough to ruin, so I thought that this, with cups and cups of caramelized onions and Belgian amber ale, was a perfect fall version of sorts.

When we bought the stew beef, we purchased chuck blade steaks and asked the butcher to cut them into stewing cubes, to make sure that the meat we would be eating had stayed as fresh as possible for as long as possible. Since I very firmly believe that braises taste even better the day after they're made, I made the carbonades the night before, and I'm surprised that we didn't devour the entire contents of the pot that evening! For three hours, divine smells swirled through the house, the dog sniffed hopefully with his nose high in the air*, and every few minutes I found myself wanting yet another taste- strictly for testing purposes, of course.

Carbonades is traditionally served with pommes frites, so to save time and sanity, I served it with crispy oven-roasted potatoes, which turned out to be an equally delicious complement. Alongside roasted root vegetables (can you tell I was in a roasting mood?!), an arugula, walnut and blue cheese salad, an assortment of Belgian ales and raspberry lambic to drink, and a caramel apple cake for dessert, we had a fabulous, satisfying autumn meal.

One of the best aspects of this party was that we were able to do the vegetable prep, carbonades cooking and cake baking the day before, giving me the chance to spend time with everyone and actually enjoy the day of the meal!

The carbonades itself turned out spectacular- the meat was so tender that we hardly needed knives, the sauce was unctuous and velvety, and everyone had seconds. A few of us even had thirds! I'm always thrilled to find recipes that turn out so scrumptious on the first try- thank you, Clothilde!

* For the record, the pup really, really liked this dish... not that we gave him a small bowlful or anything.


lesha said...


in Italy we also serve this delicious meat dish with polenta. do you know what it is?



la petite gourmande said...

Mmmm, I love polenta. What is the meat dish (and do you have a recipe recommendation for it)? Is it something like sausages or beef/pork braised in wine? L's mom is Italian and she makes both with polenta, which she stirs forevvvvver. It's to die for! Oh, now I'm hungry!

Lesha said...

I left a message for you a couple of days ago. did you receive it?
I've got a special polenta with cheese recipe for you.
do you know polenta taragna?
If not, let me know, I'll send you the recipe. it's delicious!


la petite gourmande said...

I did, and I would looooove the recipe! Will you share? I can't wait to try it!

Lesha said...

hi, here is it!

200 g buckwheat flour
200 g “yellow” flour (wheat)
1,5 lt water
300 gr. Butter
400 gr. Valtellina cheese (bitto, taleggio, casera – different qualities of cheese-)

Boil water with a big knob of butter and a spoonful of salt, then pour the mixed flour. Keep on stirring and, after about half and hour put the rest of the butter. Meanwhile, after having removed the cheese rind, slice the cheeese and cut it into pieces and add it to the polenta. Let everything cook for about another half an hour and just taste it to check if it's ready. Don’t forget to stir!
It’s easier with this


I'll keep on visiting your blog to get new ideas for delicious dinners. I need something special for tomorrow, I invited my best friend to meet her new boyfriend...


la petite gourmande said...

Thank you so much!!! I can't wait to try it. It sounds absolutely delicious...

Good luck with the dinner and meeting the new boyfriend!!!