Is it odd to aid a carbonnade with marmalade?


If you’re Daniel Boulud, the answer to the question is, apparently not. And while we weren’t previously familiar with the practice, we’re pretty sure it will reappear in Gourmandistan.

Looking around for something stew-ish, we once again turned to the overlooked Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine for inspiration. We found a recipe for “Carbonnade à la Flamande,” which called for an entire beef shoulder roast marinated overnight in crème fraîche, then braised with crumbled gingersnaps and marmalade.


While we did see it as unusual, we also saw this recipe as an exciting opportunity to use a tiny bit of our several remaining jars of orange marmalade. We enjoy the stuff, but seem to have very limited ideas on how to use it that mainly involve English muffin coating (and we’re currently out of English muffins).

We scorned the overnight marinade and the entire shoulder bit, opting instead for chunks of stew beef, because we were both impatient and desirous of additional browning surfaces. We also ignored the recipe’s incomprehensible call for multiple sauces and garnishes, which may have been due to editing errors in the seemingly cheesy (yet so useful!) discount reprint edition of the cookbook that we own. We did, however, spring for an expensive bottle of actual Belgian Chimay ale.


Despite our alterations, the carbonnade was quite delicious, the gingersnaps adding a hint of spice and the marmalade offering a lovely citrus counterpoint to the beery, bacon-y sauce. As long as we have jars of marmalade (and thanks to Michelle’s industriousness, that could be some time), we’ll definitely be adding it to carbonnade.


  • Servings: about 6, with noodles
  • Print

(adapted from Daniel Boulud and Melissa Clark’s Braise: A Journey Through International Cuisine)

  • 2-1/2 to 3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into approximately 1-1/2 to 2″ chunks (we cut up a chuck roast)
  • Salt
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 slices smoked bacon, chopped into lardons
  • 2 small or 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp. or so of dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Black pepper
  • 1 large (25.4 ounce) bottle Chimay ale (or two 12-ounce bottles of similar beer or ale)
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1 TB orange marmalade, puréed in a mini food processor
  • 1/3 c. gingersnap crumbs
  • 1/2 c. crème fraîche
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • Chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 275° F.

Season meat with salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven. Over high heat, brown half of the beef, then remove to a plate. Add remaining oil and brown remainder of beef. Remove to plate.

Cook bacon in the pot, stirring, until it is mostly done. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon and put with the beef on the plate.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized.

Add garlic, thyme, bay leaf, pepper and ale. Bring to a simmer, stirring any brown bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Stir in water, mustard, marmalade, cookie crumbs and crème fraîche. Then add reserved beef and bacon. Bring to a simmer.

Cover and place in center of oven. Cook for about 2 hours, until meat is tender.

Add vinegar. Check for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper and mustard if needed.

Serve with egg noodles, tossed with butter and poppy seeds. Sprinkle with parsley.


  1. Nice! When I read that the shoulder (or chunks of stew meat in this case) were marinated in crème fraîche, it made me think of pork loin cooked in milk). Very un-kosher, but very delicious. This looks delicious too. Who would have thunk gingersnaps and marmalade?!

    • The crème fraîche marinade seems goofy, doesn’t it? In addition to that, I seldom plan so far ahead. The marmalade and gingersnaps were nice additions—though I’m pretty sure somebody would never identify them in a blind tasting!

  2. I like the idea of sugar and bitter oranges together with the Chimay. Nice idea….although I do wonder whether the some of the chefs are on drugs when they write their books. It’s strange that, after all the years that have passed and all the opportunities for the appearance of bright new talent, the old ones still seem to be the best.

    • What? Chefs on drugs? I’m shocked, shocked! The bitter orange was a nice addition, I have to say. And this cookbook is turning out to be quite good, despite my first impressions of it.

  3. Oh my, this does sound tasty! I dare say if you have any problems with those extra jars of marmalade lying around, our 30+ Paddington Bears will be happy to help you. 🙂

    • I still haven’t mastered orange marmalade. I want tiny, little, skinny shreds of peel floating in lots of jelly. Instead mine winds up chunky. I haven’t come across any Seville oranges this winter. (They were probably all the rage at Whole Foods during the month or so we were practically house-bound.) But ‘ll definitely keep those bears in mind next time!

  4. Michelle, What a fascinating recipe, between the gingersnaps, marmalade and ale. Are you glad that you sprung for the expensive bottle? I hope you did not have to travel down icy roads to obtain it. Beautiful photos. I like the minimal garnishes, as well – it highlights all of the other great flavors.

    • Ha! I can’t remember quite where we were in the Horror of Winter 2014 when we made this—whether the Chimay bottle was tucked in a backpack for the long walk home or whether it was one of those rare days when the old truck made it all the way up the hill. Clearly some sort of amnesia has set in. Which is probably a good thing. 🙂

  5. I can’t not comment on your version of one of the emblematic dishes of the city I live in! Carbonnade(s) flamande(s) (we don’t bother with the “à la”… it’s too posh for such a peasant dish) is truly an institution here, and I eat it quite often, though I have yet to make it myself some day. The “traditional” version (not that I care about “tradition” so much, as long as the result is delicious, and yours certainly looks like it) is never marinated overnight in any kind of cream, whether fraîche or other 🙂 It is also never made with a whole piece of meat, but rather using chunks of cheap meat (which is why you have to cook it for hours until it melts in the mouth). What it does contain is mustard, stale gingerbread, and brown “vergeoise” sugar (a kind of amazingly flavorful moist beet sugar), as well as a really good beer (like Chimay, which fortunately doesn’t cost much here). Oh dear, it sounds like I am teaching a lesson now, and you probably know all of this already, so it’s time to stop. I really love your idea of using leftover marmalade instead of sugar, I am sure it adds a little interesting “je ne sais quoi” to a fabulous dish. J’adore.

    • Love the lesson, Darya! I’ve made what I thought was carbonnade many times—basically just an onion and beef stew with beer. I had not heard of the gingerbread element until I saw this recipe though it makes sense. And so interesting about the vergeoise. I can’t take credit for the marmalade idea. But it did give a wonderful note that I doubt anyone would be able to identify in a blind tasting. And you’d be amazed at what a large bottle of Chimay goes for here. I think it was about €13 or 14!

  6. This looks delicious! It seems like the concept here was for them to take something classic and rich and make it even richer. The marmalade part reminds me of the way duck always goes well with citrus. This really looks decadent, fit for a king or queen. Lovely shots too. And of course beer makes everything just a little bit better.

  7. I love this delicious take of a beef stew. Actually Asian recipes sometimes call for mandarin peel to be used with beef in recipes & soups. I love gingernuts so I can see the ginger about working well with this too.

    I think a jar of marmalade over roast duck would be heavenly too!

  8. I have always loved the mixture of sweet and savory, even bacon-y tastes, as in this lovely stew recipe. My mum used (and still does) to prepare sauces for beef stews with a hint of red marmalade of all kinds, or even by adding some cookie leftovers from christmas. It´s also really delicious!! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

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  11. Cath

    Hi Michelle,
    Nice to see our local cuisine appreciated so far away! I agree with Darya, in Belgium the beef is never marinated in cream (and I never add cream to the stew itself either) – the great taste comes from the combination of beef and gingerbread (“speculoos”). We usually serve this with mash potatoes, or, even better, fries! [don’t call them french fries, but that is another debate 🙂 ]

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