TasteFood by Lynda Balslev

Put a Little Irish (Stout) in Your Stew

There’s no better time for a pot of beef stew than winter, and when March rolls around with St. Patrick’s Day hype and festivities, why not add an Irish twist with a splash of Irish stout?

This is a no-nonsense and comforting beef stew that’s guaranteed to warm and fill your belly, whether you’re Irish or not. As most stews go, it’s a humble and forgiving recipe. Cubes of beef slow-cook and braise to melting tenderness in a meaty broth, brightened by tomato and fortified with a generous glug of stout beer. The stout makes its mark in the stew with its sweet and malty notes of chocolate and coffee, adding depth and richness to the simple beef stock.

Stout has a hoppy bitterness, so you need add only 8 ounces to the recipe for effect -- which conveniently provides leftovers for drinking while you cook. This stew is also swimming with chunky root vegetables, which add earthy sweetness and round out the beefy component, permitting you to call this a one-dish meal, vegetables and all.

You can make this stew in one day, but if you have time and can plan ahead, I encourage you to make it the day before and chill it overnight. Not only does this allow the flavors to meld and develop, the fat will have time to rise and solidify on the stew. The next day you can simply lift off and discard the collected fat. Feel free to add your favorite root vegetables to the stew. I always include carrots, and then add a combination of celery root, parsnip and/or rutabaga.

Irish Beef and Guinness Stew

Active Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 1/2 to 4 hours

Yield: Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

3 pounds beef chuck, excess fat trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup stout beer, such as Guinness

1/3 cup tomato paste

3 cups beef (or chicken) stock

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 bay leaves

2 carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick

1 1/2 pounds root vegetables, such as rutabaga, parsnip, celery root, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or ovenproof pot with a lid. Season the beef all over with salt and pepper. In batches, brown the beef on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate and repeat with the remaining beef.

Add the onion to the pot and saute until soft, scraping up any brown bits, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beer and bring to a simmer, and then add the tomato paste and stir to blend.

Return the beef and any accumulated juices to the pot, and then add the stock, thyme, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. The meat should be just covered with liquid. If not, add additional stock to cover.

Bring the liquid to a boil and then turn off the heat. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and cook until the meat is tender but not falling apart, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. (The meat will continue to cook once the vegetables have been added.) Remove from the oven.

(At this point, the stock may be refrigerated. Let the stew cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, remove the stew from the refrigerator at least 1 1/2 hours before serving and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Remove and discard any accumulated fat from the surface and gently reheat the stew in the oven before proceeding with the next step.)

While the stew is cooking (or reheating), heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and root vegetables and lightly season with salt. Saute the vegetables until they brighten in color and are crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the vegetables to the stew. Return the pot to the oven and cook, partially covered, until the meat is fork-tender and the sauce is slightly reduced, about 1 more hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the stew from the oven and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with mashed potatoes.

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