Carbonnades (Belgian beer stew)

3 pounds lean boneless lamb chuck (shoulder) sliced 1/2- by 2-inches
1 tsp. salt (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
4 to 6 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 pound lean sliced or slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
4 cups sliced onions (about 1 pound)
1/2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups (16 ounces) beer, preferably dark or full-flavored beer
1 cup beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 350º. Season the strips of lamb with pepper, and salt, if desired. In a heavy 4- to 5-quart casserole or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over high heat. Brown the lamb in the hot oil, a handful at a time, turning the strips frequently . As they brown, transfer the pieces of lamb to another dish, and brown the remaining lamb the same way, adding more olive oil if necessary.
Drop the bacon strips into the fat remaining in the casserole and, stirring frequently, cook over moderate heat until the bits are brown and crisp; remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel. Pour all but about 1/4 cup of bacon fat from the casserole. Add the onions to the casserole. Stirring frequently, cook over moderate heat for about 15 minutes, or until the onions are clear and browned. Add the garlic and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon.
When the flour is completely absorbed, pour in the beer and 1/2 cup of the beef stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Add the parsley, bay leaf, thyme, and sugar, and return the beef and any liquid that has accumulated around it to the casserole. Stir in the bacon. The liquid should completely cover the meat; if necessary add up to 1/2 cup more of the stock. Cover tightly and place the casserole in the middle of the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the lamb is tender. Just before serving, stir in the vinegar and taste for seasoning. Serve at once, directly from the casserole or from a large heated bowl. This stew is served with boiled potatoes.
Nutrition per serving: N/A

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