A stew of pork spiked with tart cornichon pickles and vinegar, Carbonnades is not a dish, but rather a method of cutting stewing meat into good sized flat, thin squares. Like all stews, this one benefits from being made well ahead. Do add the last quantity of cornichon just before serving so their tang comes through loud and clear. Pour a full-bodied abbey beer or ale.
* If using Trappiste beer, stew will be sweeter than with American beer so do add a bit more vinegar.
1. In a 12-inch saute pan (not nonstick), cook bacon in vegetable oil over medium heat until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Brown the pork well in batches (so pieces don't touch) and transfer to a 5 to 6-quart heavy casserole.
2. Add onions to pan with the sugar and slowly cook until golden. Stir in garlic, bay, clove, first quantity of cornichons and the tarragon. Cook a few moments and add tomato and vinegar. Add about 1/2 cup of stock and boil down to almost nothing. Turn contents into casserole, add remaining stock, the beer, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, partially cover and cook about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until pork is just tender. Cool, skim fat from sauce and refrigerate up to 3 days.
3. To serve, gently reheat (carbonnades could be kept hot for up to 30 minutes before serving). Taste for seasoning, stir in remaining cornichon, and their juice. Cook another few moments and serve. Offer with the perennial Belgian favorite—steamed new potatoes tossed with butter and parsley.
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