Okay, so we aren’t Irish. I did go to a Catholic grade school called St Patrick’s when I was a kid, but since probably half of the students were Italian, I don’t think I gained any Irish points there. We had to wear scratchy green uniforms, but that was about it.
And ever since an unfortunate entanglement with green beer back many years ago [and not by me, I assure you.] we aren’t very likely to be a part of many of your typical St. Patrick’s Day celebrations either.
Except for the food, of course. I have blogged some delicious Irish- inspired food in the past. Like Brussels Sprout Colcannon and Irish Soda Bread. So even if we aren’t particularly drawn to celebrating a sort of made-up holiday in which we have no ethnic heritage, we can still enjoy some Irish inspired food. And I am really rather fond of Guinness Stout. So, it’s a match made in heaven, right? Which is where St. Patrick probably is right now, so it all works out.
Cooking with Guinness is a truly wonderful idea in any case, but it does seem especially appropriate this time of year. As does stew – the weather is still pretty dismal around here with yet another storm having blown through yesterday and depositing more snow. Stew is what you want on a day like that – hearty chunks of beef and vegetables, simmered together in a beefy broth enriched with a lovely dark beer.
On the other hand, we are going to steer right out of Ireland rather abruptly, because this stew is thickened with a roux, which I am pretty sure is not Irish. Knowing how to make and use a roux is a very good thing to have in your culinary arsenal though, and gives this stew a very distinctly rich and amazing flavor.
Roux is not that difficult, but it is a little time consuming. I tend to make it every now again and stash it in the fridge, where it keeps for a very long while, and is ready to use when I want to thicken some gravy or soup – or stew. I don’t use a super dark roux for this – it takes around twenty minutes to get it to this peanut butter color. A lot of places say 35 minutes, but I use a saute pan and high heat with constant stirring and I usually have the color I want in less time than that. You will not need all of the roux you make, but as I said, it does keep a long time in the refrigerator – just stir every now and again as it cools down, or it may separate a little.Any good stew involves getting a deep sear on the stew beef, some aromatics and some good stuff to make a flavorful broth, which in turn will become a flavorful gravy.The final important element is to have most all of the major ingredients cut to about the same size pieces. I like about 3/4 of an inch, but if you prefer, you can go heartier with bigger chunks, or maybe more kid-friendly with smaller pieces. It’s up to you, but having them all about the same size makes the stew easier to eat and it looks nice.
- 4 ounces butter
- 6 ounces flour, divided
- 1 pound of trimmed beef chuck roast, cut in ¾ inch chunks
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon freshly grate black pepper
- I large onion, peeled and cut into ¾ inch chunks
- 1 large celery rib, sliced into ½ chunks
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 12 ounce bottle Guinness draft stout
- 1 cup plain tomato sauce
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 cup water
- 12 ounces [about 3 medium] red potatoes
- 12 ounces [about 4 medium] carrots
- ¾ cup fresh or frozen peas
- salt and pepper to taste
- Using a wide saute pan, melt the butter over a medium flame.
- Whisk in 4 ounces of the flour, until well combined.
- Leaving the heat on medium to medium high, whisk the butter-flour mixture constantly. Make sure to get all of the edges and corners so that nothing scorches. The color will gradually deepen as you go along.
- After about 15 minutes, I usually end up adding another ounce or two of flour, if it seems on the thin side. It usually takes about 20 minutes or so to get a color close to peanut butter, which is what you want.
- Scrape the roux into a bowl - stir a few times as it cools, so that it doesn't separate. No big deal if it does - you can reheat it to recombine if need be. Set aside.
- In a 5 quart heavy pot, heat the olive oil.
- Season the beef with the salt and pepper, begin browning it in the hot oil. You will want to do this in a couple batches, so that you get a good sear on the beef chunks. Set the browned beef aside in a bowl.
- Immediately, add the onions, celery and garlic to the hot pan, and stir around. Lower the heat slightly and continue to stir for a few moments.
- Add the bay leaves and thyme.
- Carefully add the bottle of Guinness to the pan - it will foam up some and let off a lot of steam, so don't burn yourself. Stir, and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Stir in the tomato sauce, beef broth, water.
- Bring to a simmer, lower heat a bit, cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly askew so that it doesn't sputter all over the stove.
- Cook until the beef is tender - about 2 hours, but it might be longer.
- Remove the bay leaves.
- Taste the broth, and add some salt and pepper if it needs it.
- Stir in the potatoes and carrots and cook about 15-20 minutes, until fork tender.
- Stir in the peas. If frozen cook a minute or two, if fresh, cook about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the roux, one tablespoon at a time, letting each addition cook a minute or so to see how thick it gets. Keep adding the roux by tablespoonfuls until it is as thick as you like it - usually around 3 to 4 tablespoons is enough.
- cook the stew at a low simmer for about 5 minutes more.
- Serve hot, refrigerate leftovers.
Now, if you happen to have a few extra bottle of Guinness still around at dinner time, you might like to crack those open to enjoy with your stew – maybe some crusty bread as well, to sop up that delicious gravy.