Cook the onions in something over half the oil in a skillet over a low flame, stirring or tossing regularly, until softened and lightly caramelized—turn the flame up slightly, if necessary, toward the end in order to color them. Empty them into a sieve over a mixing bowl or over the oven casserole that will serve for cooking the dish, being certain that no fragment of onion remains in the skillet.
Pour the drained fat back into the skillet, add a bit more oil, if necessary, and, over a fairly high flame, brown the slices of steak, first salted. This will have to be done in two or three shifts; remove those that are done to the strainer with the onions and pour back into the skillet, from time to time, the fat and juices that drain from the onions and seared meat. When all the steaks have been browned, turn the flame low, add the sugar, stir around, then add the flour and cook, stirring, for a few moments and deglaze with the beer, adding it slowly and stirring the while, scraping well to loosen all caramelized adherences. Stir in the stock, bring to a boil, and remove from the heat. Taste for salt.
Arrange the slices of meat in alternate layers with the onions (three layers of meat slices and two of onions), a bay leaf and a sprinkling of herbs on each layer of onions. Pour over the liquid—the contents should be well immersed; add a bit more beer or some water or stock, if necessary. Bring to a boil on top of the stove and cook, tightly covered, in a 300° to 325° oven for about 3 hours, testing for tenderness after some 2½ hours. Carefully lift all fat from the surface, first with a tablespoon, then with absorbent paper, before serving. Season with pepper at table and accompany with steamed potatoes or fresh egg noodles. Customarily, beer is drunk with it—I prefer a cool, light-bodied, young red wine.
Copyright © 1974 by Richard Olney. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.