To honor St. Patrick's Day, this week I made a rich stew that unites the three pillars of Irish culture – meat, potatoes and Guinness. Ireland’s famous black stout – “thinned” slightly with beef stock – makes the broth robust and dark, its mysteriously roasted flavor rippling throughout. As if the proclaimed “liquid food” isn’t enough of a meal on its own, a chunky cast of beef, potatoes, carrots and onions join the pot, adding heft to each ladleful. All of the ingredients take to the Guinness in their own way – the meat gets deeply flavorful and tender, the carrots transform into nougats of malty sweetness, and the potatoes soak up Arthur G’s finest like starchy sponges. You’ll be pouring your perfect pints right into the pot.
BEEF STEW (WITH OR WITHOUT GUINNESS)
[Recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything]
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 1 ½ to 2 hours, largely unattended
2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, lightly crushed, plus 1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 to 2 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck or round, trimmed of surface fat and cut into 1- to 1 ½-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large or 3 medium onions, cut into eighths
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, water, wine, or a combination, or more as needed*
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
4 medium to large waxy or all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (I used whole baby red and white)
4 large carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish
1. Heat a large pot with a lid or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes; add the oil and the crushed garlic clove; cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then remove and discard the garlic. Add the meat to the skillet a few minutes at a time, turning to brown well on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Do not crowd or the cubes will not brown properly; cook in batches if necessary. Sprinkle the meat with salt and pepper as it cooks.
2. When the meat is brown, remove it with a slotted spoon. Pour or spoon off most of the fat and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onions. Cook, stirring until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the stock, bay leaf, thyme, and meat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover. Cook, undisturbed, for 30 minutes.
3. Uncover the pot; the mixture should be wet (if not, add a little more liquid). Add the potatoes and carrots, turn the heat up for a minute or so to bring the liquid back to a boil, then lower the heat and cover again. Cook for 30 to 60 minutes, until the meat and vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (At this point, you may remove the meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon and refrigerate them and the stock separately. Skim the fat from the stock before combining it with the meat and vegetables, reheating, and proceeding with the recipe from this point.)
4. Add the minced garlic and the peas; if you’re pleased with the stew’s consistency, continue to cook, covered, over low heat. If it’s too soupy, remve the cover and raise the heat to high. In either case, cook for an additional 5 minutes or so, until the peas have heated through and the garlic has flavored the stew. Garnish with parsley and serve.
*Beef and Guinness Stew. In Step 2, omit the flour. Use 2 cups Guinness and 1- to 1 ½-cups beef broth for the liquid (add more beer, broth or water as needed during the cooking process).