I’m not going to harp on the obvious elephant in the room. Just note that if you happen to see my hands in these images, you’ll only see ONE of them. Because the other is still in dispose. A “rustic” recipe was a must this week because of that fact. I still look like a T-Rex while I’m typing too, so this post will be a short as my OCD will allow. Although I’m about as a Irish as a tamale, I love to celebrate most holidays if it involves food. This Rustic Guinness Beef Stew marries the only beer I can tolerate with one of my favorite cooking techniques. The result is nothing short of culinary genius.
Have you ever wondered what it takes to get a tender piece of meat when making a stew? I’m sure most of us have. Thankfully, some of us had to pass tests on the subject in culinary school. Now, I can pass along that knowledge to you. When you think about what cuts of meat are the best to use in a long-cooking stew or soup, think about what part of your body you would eat.
Um…okay, see, that came out wrong…
…what I meant was think about a part of your body that is full of muscle and is fairly tough. Now me, personally, I don’t have much muscle, but if I did, I’m almost certain it would be in my thighs or my shoulders- definitely not my abs. Animals are the same way- more so, in fact, as they spend all their lives working their shoulder and hind quarter muscles. Surely they don’t waste away the day updating their Instagram or Facebook like I do. Because of this, the most popular cuts to use in long-cooking recipes come from those regions. Specifically, anything labeled “Bottom/Round” or “Chuck”.
If you take a look at this high-speed graphic, you can see why the two names are what we look for when selecting a good, tough cut of meat. They both come from the shoulder or backside. These sections of the cow have not only supported the cow and and all its baggage throughout its entire life; they have also developed connective tissue along the way. Connective tissue breaks down into collagen, which in turn breaks down into gelatin. You certainly know what gelatin is, right? It’s that viscous, sticky film that’s left on your lips after sipping a great cup of bone broth. Collagen, when cooked for longer periods of time, tenderizes and flavors the meat it’s cooked in. Collagen is also what countless women are injecting into their lips. Whether that’s good or bad is not for me to say, I do know it’s amazing in cooked meats.
For this stew, I’m using chuck shoulder. Since my local grocer loves to lob big hunks of meat into his packages, I’m often relegated to butchering the meat down a bit. I shoot for one to one and a half inch pieces of beef in my stews. It makes dinner more enjoyable when you don’t have to eat like a hammerhead shark.
After cutting my beef chunks down, I season them liberally with salt and pepper. I’m a proponent of the “season raw meat prior to searing” theory. Members of my school of thought know that once you’ve developed a sear on your meat, the flavor sticks to the outside of the meat as opposed to being forced into the meat like it is when seasoned pre-sear. Join our ranks, won’t you? Once you’ve seasoned your meat with salt and pepper, set it aside to marinate a bit.
What I love most about “rustic” dishes is the fact that you don’t have to be overly concerned about uniformity. Things don’t have to be “dress right dress” as they like to say in the military. Don’t mistake that to mean you can go slicing and dicing all willy-nilly. You can’t have four inch hunks of potatoes cooking alongside minced carrots. That just don’t jive, savvy? Keep them roughly the same size, but don’t worry about being graded on them…this week.
I start with my onions. Mainly to get the crying over and done with. Slice off the end opposite the root with a sharp chef’s knife. The root will keep the onion intact while you’re chopping it. Once you’ve sliced off the end, slice it in half lengthwise. Peeling the skin off of the onion should be easy now. Just grip the peel near the cut end and peel back, then discard the peel. Now slice the onion in fourths lengthwise, making sure not to slice through the root. Leave about an 1/8th of an inch of space between the end of your cut and the root.
Now turn your knife and cut the onion across in half inch chunks. Gather them into a bowl and set aside.
All the garlic needs, after peeling, is a rough chop. Set the chopped garlic into the same bowl as the onions. I’m telling you, this rustic stuff is the truth!
Celery is a great vegetable because it has built in cutting guidelines. Those ridges just under the leafy tops are a great place to begin if you aren’t confident with your knife skills. Those dried out tops don’t really lend much in the way of flavor, but they don’t hurt anything either. Typically, I cut either at the natural ridge in the celery stalk or about quarter inch above it. Line them up so all of the ridges match and send your knife’s blade through in one swipe.
Voilà! (That’s French)
Flip the stalks around and line up the tough, lighter-colored ends.
Slice them off in the same way. Discard both the tops and the white bottoms.
Now give the celery a rough chop (rustic) into half inch slices. Set those in a bowl separate from the onions and garlic. We’re going to add them at a different time in the cooking process.
Mushrooms are just as simple. Cut off a very thin slice from the dried-out woody stems.
Then slice them into quarters if the cap is over two inches in diameter or in half for anything smaller. Place those into the bowl with the celery.
For this recipe, I’m using baby carrots. Since these particular ones are more like toddler carrots, however, I’m cutting them in half to create half inch pieces. Place those into the celery/mushroom bowl as well.
The last bit of chopping is for the potatoes. Cut them in half lengthwise.
Turn them onto their flat side and, depending on how wide they are, slice them into half inch thick slices, or slice in half lengthwise again. Then cut them into half inch chunks.
The goal, once again, is to be rustic; but to also have all of our cooked veg tender at roughly the same time.
Speaking of rustic, I’d like to point out that I’ve done all the cutting with just one hand…and three fingers.
…you should be.
By now your beef chunks are beautifully seasoned. While our oil is heating up we need to dredge them (toss them) in all-purpose flour. This, along with a roux we’re going to make later, is going to help us thicken the stew. Make sure your pieces of meat are coated evenly in the flour, but not so much that it’s clumped on there. You want it lightly dusted. When in doubt, shake off any excess. Less is more in this case.
Add the meat to the pan in small batches to prevent a drastic drop in the cooking temperature. The goal is to get that crispy brown sear on the exterior of the meat. Anytime you see this your brain should register, “FLAVOR”- ’cause that’s all that is. Turn over the meat using a pair of tongs and sear the other side. Now, normally, I’m a stickler for searing every side of the meat, but these are too small to really justify the time it takes to do that. Remove this batch from the pan and sear your next batch. Continue searing until all the meat is browned.
What makes this stew so abundantly delicious is the process of building up layer, upon layer, of flavor. Once you’ve seared the meat, you should have little bits of caramelized beef stuck to the bottom of the pot. Adding the onions and garlic to that, and allowing them to sweat, caramelizes them along with those bits of meat. Whenever you hear a chef say, “sweat” or “cook until translucent”, the image above is what they mean. The onions and garlic look glossy and see-through when they’ve been sweated.
But, how do we extract that yumminess from the bottom of the pot? By deglazing. Deglazing is using a liquid- typically a wine, beer, or stock- to loosen up the stuck on bits of food at the bottom of a pot or pan. That liquid is incorporated into the rest of the sauce or broth to flavor it. I, of course, am using a small amount of Guinness to deglaze my pot.
Pour in about a 1/2 cup and use your wooden spoon to scrape up the bits of stuck on food at the bottom of the pot. Allow the Guinness to evaporate by three-fourths.
Add the remaining flour. The flour, along with the fat from cooking our beef chunks will form a loose roux. This roux will finish thickening the stew as it cooks. Stir in the flour and allow it cook for at least a minute to eliminate that raw flour taste.
Add the remaining Guinness, along with the beef broth, stir and increase the heat.
Return the beef chunks to the pot.
Now add your fresh herbs, or you can use dried herbs instead. Add the potatoes to the pot.
Add all of your veg and season with salt and pepper. Stir everything together and cover the pot. Place in your preheated oven and cook for two and a half to three hours, or until the veggies are fork-tender.
Remove the pot from the oven and discard the herb stems and bay leaves. Ladle into soup bowls, yell out “Erin go Bragh”, or something, and enjoy! Be sure to share this with your clan and pin it for later.
How about you? Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? If so, what’s your favorite way to party?
Rustic Guinness Beef Stew
Yield 8 servings
While the alcohol is cooked off completely, a non-Guinness version can be made by using only beef stock.
2 1/2lbs beef chuck, cut into 1- 1 1/2" pieces
salt and pepper, divided
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and rough chopped
2 12 oz bottles Guinness
3 cups beef broth
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, or 1 tbsp dried
1 sprig fresh thyme, or 2 tsp dried
2 bay leaves
3 celery stalks, trimmed and roughly chopped
5 oz baby portabella mushrooms, washed and quartered
8 oz bag baby carrots, cut in half, or 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 large russet potatoes, washed and cut in 8ths
Place your oven rack on the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large mixing bowl, season the beef chunks with 1 tbsp of salt and 1 tsp of pepper. Set this aside to marinate while you prep your vegetables (about 15 minutes).
In a large braising pan, or dutch oven that has an oven safe lid, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. While the oil is heating up, dredge the beef in 3 tbsp of the all-purpose flour. You want to lightly dust the beef and shake off (and discard) any excess.
Add the meat to the pot in small batches. Cook until the beef has a crispy brown sear on the outside. Using tongs, transfer the cooked meat to a bowl. Continue searing until all the meat is browned.
Once the meat has been seared, add the onions and garlic to the pot, and cook until translucent- about 3-4 minutes. Deglaze the pot by pouring in a half cup of the Guinness and using a wooden spoon to scrape up the bits of stuck on food from the bottom of the pot. Allow the Guinness to evaporate by 3/4s.
Add the remaining flour to the pot. Allow it cook for at least a minute to eliminate any raw flour taste. Add the remaining Guinness, along with the beef broth, stir, then increase the heat.
Return the beef chunks to the pot, followed by the herbs and the potatoes.
Add all of your veg and season with a tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Stir everything together, and cover your pot. Place the pot in the preheated oven and cook for 2 1/2-3 hours, or until the veggies are fork-tender.
Remove the pot from the oven and discard the herb stems and bay leaves. Ladle into soup bowls and enjoy!
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Need more St. Paddy’s Day Recipes? Try these: