Carbonnade de Boeuf Flamande
I was recently in Belgium visiting a friend. His mother made Carbonnade for me. It was quite wonderful--pure, rich flavor. Below is her recipe, translated from Flemish into English. (I personally wouldn't use margaine but want to post her recipe exactly as given to me. Also, it would be my instinct to use herbs such as bay, but I think the traditional idea is to have the beer flavor prevail.) As for the cut of beef, I'm told that the cut they use in Belgium is not available here, but chuck is the recommended alternative.
Epicurious has a number of variations. I saw one that uses prunes that looks interesting. Haven't tried any of them yet, but am planning a Belgian dinner party with steamed mussels to start; carbonnade, frites, and braised endive; a butter lettuce salad (a lot of butter lettuce in Belgium); and something yet to be determined for dessert (suggestions?).
Here is John's Mom's Carbonnade:
A) What you need for 3 persons:
1 kg carbonnade of beef - 1 big onion (size 8 to 10 cm diameter) - salt - pepper - margarine - 25 cl of dark beer (we use "Palm") - one slice of bread - mustard.
1) First of all, fry the carbonnades lightly at both sides in a frying pan ; at the same time, you cut the onion into very tiny pieces, and fry it lightly with margarine in a steam-pressurized casserole.
2) Do the carbonnades from the frying pan directly into the steam-pressurized casserole, and pour the dark beer over it. After that, put some mustard on a slice of bread (!! and put the mustard on both sides of the slice !!) and place it on top of the meat (this is to ticken the sause, and is used by me instead of another binder like eg. Maizena).
3) Close the casserole and steam it hard during approx. 5 minutes. After that, let it simmer for another 20 minutes and it should be ready !
If you don't have a steam-pressurized casserole, than you will need to simmer the meat for about 2 hours in an ordinary casserole, doing the same as previously described.
Serve it - of course - with those yummy beglian friet and salad and mayonaise.
Cook's Illustrated just had a recipe. They recommend using Belgian beer.
I bought all three Chimays available here plus another Belgian, and taste-tested, think Chimay blue would do the best, but haven't made it yet.
I keep buying Chimay and my dear husband keeps drinking it! He says Chimay is too good to waste on beef stew!;^)