Carbonnade of Beef

Serves 6

¼ pound bacon
2 very large yellow onions (1 ½ to 2 pounds total), peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 pounds beef stew meat (chuck is best), in 1-inch cubes
Vegetable oil (optional)
2 cups imported dark beer
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish


1. Coarsely dice the bacon and sauté it in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve.
2. Add the onions to the skillet and cook them, covered, in the rendered bacon fat until tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover the skillet, raise the heat, and sprinkle the onions with the sugar. Toss and stir them until they are well browned. Transfer the onions to a strainer set over a bowl and let stand while you prepare the beef.
3. Stir together on a plate the flour, thyme, salt, and pepper, and roll the cubes of meat around in the mixture until well coated. Shake off the excess and set the cubes on another plate.
4. Press the onions gently with the back of a spoon to extract as much of the cooking fat as possible. Transfer the fat to a large heavy pot. Add additional fat in the form of vegetable oil if it appears you will not have enough for properly browning the beef. Be sparing, however, or the carbonnade will be greasy.
5. Set the pot over high heat; when it is very hot, add 6 to 8 beef cubes. Do not crowd them in the pot or they will not brown properly. Turn the heat down slightly and continue to cook the cubes until browned on all sides. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to a clean plate and proceed with the browning until all the meat is done.
6. Preheat the oven to 3150 F.
7. Pour the beer into the pot and use a spoon to stir up all the browned bits on the bottom. Return the beef cubes to the pot along with the bacon and sautéed onions. Bring to a simmer on the stove. Cover and set on the center rack of the oven.
8. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the stew is reduced and thickened and the meat is tender, about 1 ½ hours. Regulate the oven temperature as needed to maintain a moderate simmer.
9. Taste and correct the seasoning. Turn the stew out into a heated serving dish, garnish with chopped parsley, and serve immediately.