Fall crashed upon us with heavy wind and stiff rain, bringing a sense of relief.
The pungent bouquet of autumn lingered like good smells from a happy kitchen. Apples fall. Deer wait. The sappy smell of spruce lingers. Dahlias crumple. Mushrooms send out their Earth-bound fruit. Suddenly, dozens of small puffball mushrooms rise in my yard.
Picking a few handfuls, I immediately think of a Flemish stew called Carbonnade Flamande, a stew that marries beef and thick brown stout. A favorite with the distinct flavors of October, I add wild mushrooms believing the only thing better than a good mushroom, are several.
- ½ tablespoon of butter
- ½ tablespoon of olive oil
- 6 ounces of bacon, sliced into ½-inch pieces
- Eight cloves of minced garlic
- 4 pounds of chuck steak, cubed into 1-inch squares
- 2 cups mushrooms
- One large onion, diced
- ½ cup flour
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ cup sherry vinegar
- ½ cup red wine, save the rest for dinner
- 3 cups of brown beer
- 1 cup baby carrots, parboiled
- 1 tablespoon fine-diced thyme
- Three whole bay leaves (pull after simmering)
- 2 tablespoons of sweet soy
- Two slices of bread
- 3 tablespoons of French mustard
- ¼ cup of fine-diced parsley (garnish)
- One sprig of rosemary, destemmed and diced
- Salt and pepper
Pick a large enamel-lined casserole with a tight lid. Cook the bacon until slightly crispy. Drain excess bacon grease.
Enter butter and olive oil into the pan and sauté the onions and garlic until caramelized. Add the brown sugar. Cook for about 10 minutes under low heat.
Dust the 1-inch beef cubes from a chuck roast (or a sirloin) with flour, salt and pepper. Put in a paper bag and shake until coated.
Pull the bacon and onions from the casserole and rest on a separate plate. In the same pan, cook the beef until golden brown.
Add the mushrooms, being as generous as possible. Stir for a few minutes, then add the bacon and onions back into the pot along with the vinegar, red wine and beer. Simmer slowly.
Add one cup of parboiled baby carrots, the spices and enough beer to cover all the ingredients.
Slather two slices of bread with mustard and place face down over the stew. Cover everything with a tight lid and cook for a couple of hours.
Pull the bread and discard. The stew is ready to serve. This preparation is wonderful ladled over hot polenta or small finger potatoes.