When I think of Belgian food, happy images of chocolate, beer, waffles and frites start dancing in my head. And then, my thoughts meander to the seriously excellent food at one of our favorite local restaurants – Et Voila. This tiny Belgian restaurant tucked into the Palisades neighborhood of DC is perfect. We love the attentive service, and everything they prepare is simple, elegant, understated, and delicious. To us, Et Voila is one of those restaurants that feels like home… both for everyday and special occasions.
What do we order? You might might think we’re adventurous eaters, but I’m afraid we’re in a bit of a rut. To start, the unique Belgian endive salad with bleu and chimay cheese, pecans, and sliced gala apples is a must for M – but sometimes I crave their wonderful mussels with white wine and garlic. Though I know there are a dozen amazing options, I nearly always choose the salmon with lentils with mustard sauce, and M has either the steak frites or the Flemish beef stew, also known as Carbonnade.
Ah, that stew. As one of their signature dishes, it is rich and comforting… a perfect winter’s meal.
While beef bourguignon is generally my go-to winter one-pot meal, I was inspired break out of my home-cooked stew rut to attempt that Flemish stew. We invited some brave friends over whom I warned: “You know you’re really good friends when I start experimenting with new dishes for you,” and I pulled out an old Saveur recipe to fiddle with. They didn’t seem to mind at all (or perhaps they were too polite to say so…)
My version included a ton of seriously caramelized onions – I mean, I cooked them for nearly an hour before they went into the pot… and caramelized carrots for good measure. I used dark Chimay Belgian Ale – made by Belgian Trappist monks (!). At Et Voila, the dish is served with frites… as I’ve yet to perfect fries in my home kitchen, I decided warm buttered noodles would be delicious.
- 3 lb. beef chuck, cut into 1 x 1 inch chunks
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup flour
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 6 slices bacon
- 9 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 5 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 6 carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally into ½-inch rounds
- 3 cups dark Belgian-style ale (I used Chimay)
- 2 cups beef stock
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- buttered noodles, for serving (though mashed potatoes would also be a nice option)
- In a large skillet, cook the bacon until its fat renders, about 8 minutes. Take the bacon out, and set it aside. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the bacon fat, with the garlic, and onions; cook over low heat until the onions are caramelized to a deep, rich brown — which could take 40 minutes to an hour. About 20 minutes into to this caramelizing session, add your carrots to the onion mixture, to caramelize them as well.
- Season beef with salt and pepper in a bowl; add flour and toss to coat.
- Meanwhile, in a 6 quart dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons butter oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add beef; cook, turning, until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; set aside.
- When the onions are finished, place them in the dutch with half the beef and cook, scraping bottom of pot, until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes. Return beef to pot with the crumbled bacon, remaining beer, stock, sugar, vinegar, thyme and parsley and salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until beef is tender, about 1 ½ hours.
- Serve with buttered noodles or mashed potatoes.