I really want to make Carbonnade a La Flamande (Kitchen, p331) for my family get together but my boyfriend's sister can't eat beef. Is there something I could change the shin of beef for that would work just as well?
Although it is traditional for the Carbonnade to be made with beef it should be possible to substitute other slow cooking cuts of meat. Lamb shanks would be an alternative to try as the shanks will have the slightly gelatinous qualities that beef shank has. You will need to allow 1 lamb shank per person (so 8 in total) and you may need to arrange them in the casserole (Dutch oven) with their bones pointing upwards to fit them all in. Also the cooking time is likely to be longer as lamb shanks tend to come on the bone and are larger than cubes of beef shin. Check the Carbonnade after 3 hours to see if the meat is falling off the bone, but be prepared to cook the Carbonnade for an extra 1-2 hours if necessary. Also lamb is fattier then beef so we would strongly suggest cooking the Carbonnade the day before and then cooling and refrigerating it overnight. The excess fat from the lamb should solidify overnight in the fridge and can be easily scooped away before the Carbonnade is reheated.
Pork is another alternative and shoulder (in the US often known as "pork butt") is good for stewing. Cut the pork into approximately 5cm (2-inch) cubes and use in the Carbonnade. Pork will tend to cook slightly faster than the beef so check after 2 hours but allow for extra cooking time in case it is needed. Pork and fruit are great partners so if you choose to try the Carbonnade with pork then you may like to follow Nigella's suggestion in the introduction to the recipe and throw in a handful of dried prunes instead of using the brown sugar.