Seven Days of 60s Food: Beef Carbonnades

Probably the most famous cookbook published in the 1960s is Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Simone Beck, and Louisette Bertholle. First published in 1961, it’s been intimidating home cooks for more than half a century. I’m confident that Anne-Marie would have owned a copy. And as soon as I took this project on, I knew I had to make something out of it.

I called my grandmother and asked about her memories Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What recipes had she actually used? She immediately began talking about Carbonnades a la Flamande, or beef carbonnades. So that’s what I picked.
picture of beef plated with onions and kitchen in background

Beef and Onions Braised in Beer (Carbonnades a la Flamande)

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

3 lbs chuck roast

3 tablespoons cooking fat

6 cups sliced onions

4 cloves of garlic

1 cup beef broth

2 to 3 cups Pilsner or other light beer

2 tablespoons brown sugar

6 sprigs parsley

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or several sprigs fresh)

1 and 1/2 tablespoons corn starch or arrowroot

2 tablespoons wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 325. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cut the beef into several strips 2 to 4 inches in width. Dry the beef with paper towels and then brown it in the Dutch oven; set the meat aside on a clean plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions to the pan and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Add the beef, and any accumulated juices on the plate, to the Dutch oven. Pour in the broth and enough beer to just cover the meat. Stir in the brown sugar. Tie the herbs together in bouquet made of cheese cloth; bury this in the braising liquid.

Cover and bake until the meat is fork-tender and the liquid has reduced, about 2 and a half hours.

Remove the meat and onions from the Dutch oven to a plate. Discard the herb bouquet. Skim the braising liquid to remove any fat, and then heat it in a sauce pan. Stir in a slurry of corn starch (or arrowroot) and vinegar and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serve the meat with the sauce alongside potatoes or buttered noodles.


This one turned out quite well without any adjustment. It’s bit much for weeknight cooking–at least for me!–but it’s a relatively painless weekend meal that I recommend.

Stay tuned because tomorrow, I have a retro Jello disaster.

ETA: And Gen is doing an amazing 60s cocktail countdown! If you want to know what to drink with your carbonnades, she has the skinny.

2 thoughts on “Seven Days of 60s Food: Beef Carbonnades

  1. I love these kind of beef stew type recipes. I use the recipe for this particular one from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook (They have the America’s Test Kitchen show on PBS). I’ve never had a recipe from their cookbook that I didn’t like. I’ve actually bought specific beers and wines mentioned in recipes, like a Newcastle Amber Ale.

    1. I LOVE Cook’s Illustrated. I probably have six of their books and we got the magazine for a long time. I’ll have to try their version.

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