I love making the best of the winter months by cross country skiing and snowshoeing when the conditions are right. Nothing is better than to take a break around the campfire for a warm up and lunch.
This recipe, Belgian beef stew, is one of my favorites all winter long. It tastes better after a day and freezes well too. The ingredients are minimal but the trick to the flavour is to caramelize the onions and take your time in cooking them. Then cook the stew slowly—it’s not a recipe to rush. The flavours will come out over time. If you are reheating over the fire, add a little bit of beer if you need the extra liquid. At home, serve with fresh new potatoes. Out in the woods, a hunk of bread will do the job in taking care of the extra sauce.
Start off your lunch with a thermos of warm cider (add a shot of brandy if you are so inspired!)
Belgian beef and ale stew
2 lb. beef chuck, cut into 2″ x 1⁄2 cubes
1⁄4 cup flour, mix in 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp fresh pepper
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
4 slices bacon, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced lengthwise - it seems like a lot but they will melt down.
2 cups Belgian-style ale
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Mixture of fresh herbs or 1 tsp dried thyme and 1 tsp tarragon
(do not substitute dried parsley for fresh)
1 sprig thyme
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
1 sprig tarragon
1 bay leaf
In a heavy (I use cast iron) 6-qt. Dutch oven heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat.
Working in batches, add beef; cook, turning, until well browned, about 5-10 minutes.
Add bacon; cook until its fat renders, about 8 minutes.
Add oil or butter if needed, garlic and onions; cook until caramelized, about 20 minutes.
Add the sugar and cook about 5 minutes longer.
Add half the beer and the vinegar; cook, scraping bottom of pot, until slightly reduced, about 2-4 minutes.
Reduce heat to low; cook, covered, until beef is tender, about 1 ½ hours.
Serve with bread, preferably a sourdough loaf because the taste pairs so well with the strong ale used in the stew.
For the dumplings