27 February 2011

The carbonnade that wasn't: Chicken and Ale Stew

It all started with beer. And beef.

No, this isn't a wayward tale that begins in a pub and finishes with me communing with a herd of Waygu, pouring Methuselahs of Sapporo into their four-chambered gullets...

Although that could be fun...if a brewer or a beef farmer wanted to sponsor me on such a journey, I'm open to discussion...

But I digress.

It's winter, in Canada. Snow blankets the ground and at times a fierce wind chills me to my very core. In my world, it's not salad eating season. I don't want lemonade or iced tea. I don't want sushi. I don't want mellons dripping with honeyed juices.

I want hearty, long-cooked food with earthy and rich flavours. I want beef. I want oniony and mushroomy gravies. I want beef-stuffed oven-baked pastas. I want giant burgers with poutine. I want hot chocolate...and this is the only time of year I really crave...beer. Not just any beer. Stout--deep, rich and heady with chocolaty notes. Oh, it's lovely stuff.

But I'm not much of a drinker--the occasional half pint (yes, I'm the one who orders half a pint while out), but then the rest of my cravings go into food: cakes, stews, breads.

Knowing how well beer and beef play together--beer-braised beef,
steak and Guinness stew, beer-based sauces on barbecued steak--I fixated on Carbonnade à la flamande: a lovely, rich oniony Belgian beef and beer stew. I looked at a few recipes and cobbled together a plan.

I executed that plan.

I wasn't enamoured with the result.

Don't get me wrong--it was good: the beef was tender, the herbs and spices were and the aleish broth was oniony and and sort of rich. It definitely wasn't deep and lush as I'd hoped. But it was good.

When I revisited my plans and did more research into carbonnades, I found my error.

In all my frenetic note-taking, I didn't pay attention to what sort of Beglian beer to use. I should have used a dark brew. I bought a six-pack of whitbier. In other words I bought something better suited for lighter and crisper summertime sipping than a sturdier and darker pint.

Oh well. I looked at my remaining bottles of Hoegaarden. Truthfully, I read my remaining bottles of Hoegaarden. Two words caught my attention: orange and coriander.

Truthfully (again) I didn't pick up those notes when I tasted the ale. Mind you, I also don't pick up the plummy, oaky, peachy or other notes wines are purported to have.

But I digress (again).

I can work with coriander and orange and beer. I can work with those ingredients with chicken and mushrooms. I also happened to have a couple of links of Alsatian sausage in my freezer, from one of of the butchers I usually frequent, and though their peppery-clove spicing would also compliment the other flavours.

Every velvety and meaty mouthful combines sweet and spicy, with just a little bit of latent sourness from the ale and the mustard. The aromas hint at citrus and clove, in all its chickenny and sausagey goodness.

It may not be a carbonnade, but it was warming and made my tummy incredibly happy.

Chicken and Ale Stew with mushrooms and sausage
Yield: approx 2L

For the marinade:
2 cloves garlic, minced
0.25tsp salt
0.5tsp black pepper
1tsp ground coriander, toasted (see notes)
0.25tsp ground cloves
1 sprig, thyme
juice of one orange
500ml (2cups) Belgian pale ale--approx 1.5 bottles (I used Hougaarden)

For the stew:
500g (1lb) bonless, skinless chicken (dark and light meat), cut into bite-sized chunks.
200g (7oz) mildly spiced sausage (I used Alsatian-style sausages), sliced into coins (optional)
butter or oil for frying
1tsp ground coriander, toasted (see notes)
0.25tsp ground cloves
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
4 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
500ml (2c) chicken or vegetable stock
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1Tbsp brown sugar
2-3Tbsp whole grain mustard
4Tbsp soft butter
3Tbsp all-purpose flour
grated zest of one orange
a handful of chopped parsley (optional)
500g (1lb) mushrooms, sliced

Mix the marinade ingredients together and pour over chicken pieces. Let sit while you brown the sausage coins in batches in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Remove the browned meat to a plate. Brown the marinated chicken in the sausage fat (adding additional oil or butter, if needed). Remove the browned chicken pieces to a plate.

Over a medium flame, add the coriander and cloves to the hot fat and fry for about a minute, until the air is perfumed. Add the celery, carrots and onions to the pot and cook until the onions are transluscent. Add the garlic, some salt and pepper and stir for about 30-45 seconds, until the garlic scents the air.

Add the marinating liquid and bring to a boil. Add the sausage, chicken and chicken stock. Stir in the brown sugar and bring it back to a boil. Add thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Lower heat and let simmer for about an hour (or longer, if you wish).

While the stew simmers, sauté mushrooms and set aside.

When the stew is done simmering, make a beurre manié with the flour and butter by kneading them together into a paste. Add a ladle or two of the stew's liquid and stir into the butter-flour paste. Stir this into the stew. Turn up the heat and bring the stew back up to a boil and let boil for a few minutes. Fold the mushrooms, orange zest and chopped parsley (if using) into the stew.

Serve over boiled, buttered potatoes, egg noodles or rice.


  • To toast spices, simply put them in a dry frying pan and place over a medium heat. Stir occasionally until the oils release their scent.
  • If you don't have mild sausage, you can totally omit it or use a smaller quantity of chopped, bacon--say four rashers--or ham (100-150g).


    I'm a quill for hire!


kellypea said...

Well it looks tasty! My only time braising beef with a blonde ale was less than appealing. It was a recipe from Provence, and I think my tastebuds are just wired to think "red wine" with braised beef. I'm thinking I like the mustard in this mix, though. And I'm freezing today, so I can't imagine how cold it is where you live!

Meg Luby said...

this looks divine! stew made lovely. thanks for sharing :)
love this, love you! .meg
@ http://clutzycooking.blogspot.com/

jasmine said...

Thanks Kelly and Meg.

Kelly -- I think my tastebuds are in line with yours. I prefer heavier, fuller flavours when marinating red meat.