I could never understand what the problem was with beef stew at my house. Each winter, when I dared to serve it, every bowl was pushed away in favor of bread with lots of butter. The Irish, thankfully, came to my rescue.
(First published on March 4, 2009)
I could never understand what the problem was with beef stew at my house. Each winter, I would make just one batch on one single night, and when I dared to serve it, every bowl was universally (in my small universe) pushed away in favor of bread with lots of butter.
I discovered recently, however, that I clearly had been making the wrong kind. The traditional French Boeuf de Bourgignon à la Julia Child I usually make was apparently too full of red wine and mushrooms for the delicate palates around here that expect a meal every night.
The Irish, thankfully, came to my rescue. Irish stew, made with Guinness instead of red wine, is a less tannic, less sharp-tasting version full of potatoes and tricky parsnips no one notices. Most of the cooking time takes place in the oven, and like most stews, it tastes even better the next day. Plus, it’s an excellent accompaniment to bread with lots of butter.
2 lbs. cubed stew beef (I use top round and cut it into cubes myself)
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons pork fat or neutral oil like canola
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 leeks, well-washed and sliced into 1-inch strips, white part only
2 cups parsnips, cubed
4 medium red potatoes, cubed
2 cups beef broth
Slightly less than one bottle of Guinness stout (I always drink a little)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste and lots of freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Heat one to two tablespoons of fat or oil in a Dutch oven and add leeks, parsnips, and garlic. Sauté until soft and fragrant. Remove from heat and place in a bowl.
Meanwhile, in a paper or plastic bag, combine flour, salt, and thyme. Add beef cubes in batches and shake with flour until well coated. Place in beef cubes in strainer (in batches) and shake off excess flour.
Wipe out the pan and add another tablespoon of fat or oil. Add beef cubes and brown on all sides. Remove from heat and place on a plate.
Add Guinness to pan and scrape up all of the browned bits on the bottom. Add browned beef cubes, garlic, leeks, potatoes, bay leaf, and pepper. Add beef broth, tomato paste, and, if needed, a little water to cover. Stir well and bring to a simmer.
Place in oven with the lid on for two hours, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking. Check to see if more salt is needed and serve without trepidation. They’re going to like it. Probably.
Serves four hearty eaters or six persnickety ones.
Irish stew is sure to make your St. Patrick’s Day more legit. For even more ideas on what you can do come March 17th, check out the RVANews St. Patrick’s Day Guide!