Carbonade Hand Pies from ‘Beer Bites’

Every week, Yahoo Food spotlights a cookbook that stands out from all the rest. The week’s cookbook is Beer Bites: Tasty Recipes and Perfect Pairings for Brew Lovers by Christian DeBenedetti and Andrea Slonecker (Chronicle Books). DeBenedetti wrote The Great American Ale Trail, and is the founder of Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery. Slonecker is a food stylist and recipe editor, as well the author of Pretzel Making at Home and Eggs on Top. Read more about Yahoo Food’s Cookbook of the Week here.

Photograph by John Lee

By Christian DeBenedetti and Andrea Slonecker

Carbonade Hand Pies
Makes 16 hand pies
Oud Bruin/ Flanders Brown Ale

Flanders brown ale, also known as Oud Bruin, is one of the world’s great styles — complex, fruity, rich, tart, and malty in character. Historically a “provision,” or stock, ale (meaning one meant for laying down, or longer storage) in East Flanders, Oud Bruins are made of blended aged and younger beers (similar to Flemish red), and can be almost sherrylike, with aromas and flavors of raisins, plums, figs, dates, black cherries, caramel, and chocolate. But compared to Flemish reds, Oud Bruins tend to be a bit less acetic, and maltier. With their tart-sweet tastes and malty backbone, they’re a blast to sip with the right dish.

Enter carbonade. The traditional sour beef and Belgian ale stew, carbonade is one of the most comforting dishes on the planet (sorry , herbivores), and it is still found on seemingly every restaurant menu in Le Pays de Bière (that is, Belgium—how cool a nickname is that?). Instead of the classic recipe, which calls for finishing the rich stewed beef with cider vinegar and sugar to get a sweet-sour flavor, we love the effect that a sour brown ale imparts. We found that you need no seasoning other than salt, pepper, and butter when a beer of high quality, like New Belgium’s La Folie, is used for the braise.

When we set out to pair the iconic flavors of beef stew and beer in more portable, party-friendly form, we came upon the idea of encasing the stew in a buttery, flaky pastry crust, to create petite pies. Result: You can eat a heavenly stew with one hand and wash it down with a world-class beer in the other. It doesn’t get much better.

2 pounds/910 g beef chuck roast, cut into ½-inch/12-mm cubes
Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 Tablespoons/55 g unsalted butter
2 large yellow onions, diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2½ cups/600 ml Oud Bruin beer
Bouquet garni: 3 fresh parsley sprigs, 3 fresh thyme sprigs, and 1 bay leaf tied together with kitchen twine
Dark brown sugar as needed (optional)
2 recipes pastry dough (see below), chilled
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for an egg wash 

Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter is melted and lightly browned, add about one-third of the meat and cook until deeply browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Avoid stirring for the first 2 to 3 minutes until a nice crust forms on the first side, then stir occasionally. Transfer the browned beef to a bowl. Repeat to brown the rest of the meat in two more batches.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the pot, turn the heat to medium, and add the onions. Sauté the onions until browned, 12 to 14 minutes, scraping the browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pot. Stir in the flour until evenly distributed and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the beer, again scraping the bottom and edges of the pot. Return the beef to the pot, along with any juices accumulated in the bowl. Add the bouquet garni, a big pinch of salt, and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, then turn the heat as low as it will go, cover, and cook until the beef is falling-apart ten­der, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot occasionally, about 2 hours.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. The stew should have a rich, sweet-sour flavor. If you find that it needs a touch more sweetness, add brown sugar, a little at a time, to taste. Pick out and discard the bouquet garni. Let the carbonade cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. (The carbonade can be made up to 3 days in advance.)

When you are ready to make the hand pies, position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 400°F/200°C. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one of the discs of pastry dough into a 12-by-16-inch/ 30.5-by-40.5-cm rectangle. Trim the shaggy edges and create a neat rectangle using a pastry wheel or pizza cutter. (Save the trimmings to patch up any corners that aren’t squared off.) Cut the dough in half lengthwise, then crosswise three times to yield eight 4-by-6-inch/10-by-15-cm rectangles. Place a heaping 2 tablespoons of the cold carbonade over half of each rectangle, keeping the other half empty and a ½-in/12-mm border around the edges. Brush the edges lightly with the egg wash and fold the empty half over the filling. Gently pull the edges to make them even, and lightly pinch the seams together. Transfer the pies to one of the prepared baking sheets, spacing them out evenly. Repeat to make another eight pies with the remaining dough disc and carbonade.

Press the edges of each pie with the tines of a fork to make a decorative seal, and cut a small X on top of each with a sharp paring knife for a steam vent. Brush the tops of the pies lightly with the egg wash. Bake until golden brown and crisp, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven halfway through. Transfer to wire racks and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot or at room temperature. (Leftover pies will keep, cov­ered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days, or wrap them tightly in aluminum foil or freezer wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.)

Pastry Dough
¾ cup/ 165 g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1½ cups/180 g all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
4 to 6 tablespoons/ 60 to 80 ml ice water

Combine the butter, flour, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times, until the butter chunks are about the size of peas. Add 4 tablespoons/60 ml of the ice water and pro­cess very briefly, just to bring the dough together. If it still seems a little dry, add the remaining water 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing in between additions, just until the dough comes together. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using the heel of your hand, smear the clumps of dough across the work surface (this technique is called fraisage and makes for an incredibly flaky dough). Gather the smeared dough into a mound using a pastry scraper and pat it into a disc. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days. (To freeze, wrap it in another layer of plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.)

Our Recommended Brews:
La Folie New Belgium Brewing / Petrus Oud Bruin Bavik / The Meddler Odell / Special Reserve De Dolle Brouwers / Rosso e Marrone Captain Lawrence / Flemish Sour Monk’s Café / Grand Dame Trois Dames

Reprinted with permission from Beer Bites: Tasty Recipes and Perfect Pairings for Brew Lovers by Christian DeBenedetti and Andrea Slonecker (Chronicle Books).

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