Carbonade takes its name from the Latin carbo meaning coal and refers to the stew being cooked over coals in times long past. Les Carbonades Flamandes is a traditional Flemish sweet-sour beef and onion stew made with beer, and seasoned with thyme and bay.
The type of beer used is important, here in the UK I tend to use Newcastle Brown Ale and in addition to this and to enhance the sweet-sour flavour, just before serving, it has a small amount of cider or wine vinegar and either brown sugar or red currant jelly stirred in. Carbonade can also refer to beef stews cooked with red wine in the south of France, but is more commonly associated with the Flemish dish.
Les Carbonades Flamandes
4 lbs brisket, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 tbsp flour
4 tbsp butter
3 large onions, thinly sliced
2 bottles Newcastle Brown Ale
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 tbsp red currant jelly (or brown sugar)
1 tbsp cider or red wine vinegar
Season the beef with the salt and pepper and dredge with the flour. Shake off any excess.
Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large frying pan over high heat, add the beef cubes and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer to a casserole dish. Add the remaining butter to the frying pan and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and cook stirring occasionally, until browned. Combine the onions with the meat in the casserole dish.
Deglaze the frying pan with the Newcastle Brown and bring to a boil. Pour the beer over the meat. Add the thyme and bay leaves. Simmer, covered, over low heat until the meat is very tender, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Before serving, stir in the red currant jelly and vinegar; simmer for 5 minutes.
Château Clinet (£24 - £58 a bottle dependant on the vintage) would pair very well with this dish. Clinet is a small estate which has dramatically risen in popularity over the past decade, receiving the highest possible scores from wine critics. The château is located at the highest point of the Pomerol Plateau on the famous Günz gravel terrace and the wines are a radiant dark crimson and are aromatic. The bouquet is of sweet ripe blackcurrants and raspberries, truffles and smokey toast and wood.
Clos René (£20) is another excellent Pomerol that I would recommend. The chateau dates back to 1734, when it was known simply as 'Reney'. Clos René lies to the west of the major chateaux in Pomerol, just south of the appellation Lalande de Pomerol, in the hamlet of Grand Moulinet. Clos René has belonged to the Lasserre family for 6 generations and today it is run by Pierre Lasserre and his grandson Jean-Marie Garde with Michel Rolland as consulting oenologist. It is not one of the best known Pomerols and as such is reasonably priced wine at superb quality. The wines are rich and complex with notes of coffee, caramel, smoke, violets and black currants.
Mathilde (£11 - £13) would be great with your Carbonade – it the second wine of Château La Fleur Morange and is produced from the same 100 year old vines and terroir as the Grand Vin. Château La Fleur Morange is a boutique wine in Saint-Pey-D'Armens that is receiving high acclaim from wine critics across the globe. Mathilde is made from 100% Merlot and is opulent, well structured and rich. The wine has notes of cherries, blueberries, chocolate, plum and earth.
Finally I would recommend Château Pessan (£12.72) which hails from Graves – often considered to be the birthplace of claret. The château is owned by the Comtes de Bournazel who have 400 years of wine making experience. It is a deliciously velvety wine, deep and dense, perfectly balanced with hints of black fruits, spice, coffee, smoke, eucalyptus, pepper and oak. The wine is a superb buy and is starting to attract attention on the world market.