Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cooking à la française aka Beef in Beer and a dream come true

I have always wanted a dutch oven. CORRECTION: I have always wanted a cast iron dutch oven. After having watched countless Food Network chefs use theirs to make stews, braises, bread and all sorts of wonderfulness, I have wanted to get one. My colour scheme in my kitchen (when I move out) is burnt orange and so I had always figured that one day I would save up enough money and splurge on a Le Creuset Orange dutch oven. Well, I couldn't wait any more: I wanted one and I wanted one now. I set out a few weeks ago on a mission to try and find one that wasn't going to cost me my first born! It also probably didn't help that I watched this recipe being made that morning while watching French Food at Home.

I have always had a love for stews. My first experience with them were from my maternal Grandmother, my Baba, who makes a goulash that my brother and I still go crazy for. Frankly though, Baba's goulash is pressure cooked to infinity and beyond but it's comfort food regardless. After watching Julie and Julia for the first time, I oh so desperately wanted to make boeuf bourguignon and did make it as per Julia child's recipe (I will write a post about that one day). It was delicious even though I feel that somethings didn't quite work out as well as they should have. So naturally, when I came across Laura Calder's recipe for Beef in Beer, I knew I had to make it. 

As any beef stew begins, you must brown the meat. One little tidbit of information that I've learned from Julia Child is that your meat must be dry before you brown it, because if it is too wet, it won't brown. Your first step is to brown the meat. To do so, melt some butter in a cast iron dutch oven like so:

Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides. Be sure not to overcrowd the pot:

Look at the delicious brown bits on the bottom of the pot!

Next, and without getting rid of the delicious brown bits, throw in your onions and start to brown them too. They will somehow know to pick up all of the wonderful-ness that has developped on the bottom of the pot:

Once the onions and garlic are cooked and soft, remove them and add your flour to make a roux - pronounced roo! (as an aside, a roux is called that because of its colour. Roux is french for rust, and that is truly the colouring that you're looking for when you make a roux!) A roux is very simply flour and some sort of fat mixed together until it's cooked. It is then used to thicken a sauce and is the base for many wonderful dishes such as bechamel sauce and southern gumbos! I know a roux isn't the most beautiful thing, but I promise you the things that it can do for you is definitely beautiful. Give it time, it's really it's own little ugly duckling!

When your roux is ready, add some stock, beer and vinegar. I was a little apprehensive about this combination of ingredients but you will personally want to thank Laura Calder and the entire population of France when you try this dish! Cook this saucey goodness until it thickens. Now here comes the fun part: LAYERING! 

Layer some of your precooked onions on the bottom of the dutch oven, followed by some beef, followed by some more onions and more beef. 

Then toss in the bouquet garni and add some more beef and onions. 

My bouquet garni - simple with just lemon thyme and rosemary sprigs

All of that reserved stock/beer/vinegar thickened mixture, now gets poured over the beef and onion layers until it looks something like this:

Now, boys and girls, this is the hardest part of the entire beef in beer stew making process. You have to let this sit covered, in your oven, for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Do not peek at it, do not fidget with it, for all I care, go and take a nap (but set a timer!). Once it's done, take the beef out, and add a sort of quick makeshift roux to the sauce. My quick roux was simply 2 tablespoons of butter on a plate mixed with about a tablespoon of all-purpose flour. Just mash them up until they make a paste then add them to the stew juices. 

Let it come back to a boil for about 5 minutes and then add your beef in once more while taking out the bouquet garni. Let it all simmer for another 5 or 10 minutes, and serve while piping hot over some delicious grain like rice or in my case, quinoa. I've grown to love beef stew on top of quinoa because it truly is divine! Right before serving, toss some chopped parsley on top as garnish, grab a hunk of baguette and run with it. This dish will have you craving MORE!!!! 


  • 2 tablespoons beef drippings or butter, more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 pounds sirloin tip, cut into fat fingers
  • 3 onions, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup beef stock
  • 2 cups beer
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme spring, a few parsley stems)


  1. Melt the butter and oil together in a sauté pan and, working in batches, brown the beef strips on all sides. Remove. In the same pan, fry the onions until soft, about 15 minutes, then add the garlic one minute. Remove. (Check if there is fat in the pan. If not, add a good tablespoon of butter and let it melt.)
  2. Add the flour and sugar to the pan and cook 1 minute to make a roux. Gradually whisk in the stock and bring to a boil. (At this point, turn the oven on to 325°F/160°C.) Add the beer and the vinegar to the boiling stock, and bring back to the boil, cooking until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove.
  3. In a large casserole, layer the onion mixture alternately with the beef strips, seasoning each layer as you go with salt and pepper. Tuck in the bouquet garni and pour the liquid over. Cover and bake for 2-1/2 hours. If you can wait a day before eating, cool the dish completely when it’s out of the oven, and refrigerate overnight: the flavour will be even better when you reheat it.

I hope you're all having a wonderful long weekend! I know I am looking forward to not dreading Monday morning this week!!!! 

Take care and happy cooking!


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