I worked in restaurants and bars for most of my 20’s and 30’s, as a waitress and bartender in my early 20’s and as a manager for many more years. St. Patrick’s night was always nuts, even at the white tablecloth McCormick & Schmick’s, which Bill McCormick once described as “a bar with a really good restaurant attached.”
Since leaving the restaurant business I don’t think I’ve ever gone out to celebrate St. Patrick’s. We used to call it amateur night, and put it in the same category as Valentine’s Day — torturous nights, but big money. This year, even though my association was having their monthly Thirsty Thursday at Natty Greene’s Brewing Company, I stayed in and prepared a superb Irish meal. I didn’t want to make corned beef and cabbage because that’s something that Jim makes throughout the year. I found this beef stew recipe on Elise Bauer’s Simply Recipes blog, and knew it would be good because, well, her recipes are always good. The only change I made was to add some mushrooms.
I had a whirlwind of a few hours as I got the stew and colcannon ready. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes and greens. For a while I didn’t think I allowed enough time to bake Irish soda bread too, but I had a window while other things were cooking away, so I went for it. Sometimes cooking can almost feel like a workout, especially when you think you’re up against the clock. But it’s a fun workout, very in the moment and focused, but enjoyable – sort of like yoga!
This is a really delicious stew – one that I will keep in my repertoire. Carrying on my mother’s tradition, this will be my camping stew. My mother used to freeze her beef stew in ice cream containers and defrost it in time for our Columbus Day weekend camping (and apple-picking) trips in Vermont. We’d traditionally have it for dinner on our first night with a hardy wheat bread from the bakery.
Beef and Stout Stew
You’ll need a large heavy pot or dutch-oven with a lid, tongs (if you have them, if not, a fork will do) and a large frying pan.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/4 pounds well-marbled (not lean) beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 6 large garlic cloves, minced
- 6 cups beef broth
- 1 cup stout — I used Guinness to keep in the spirit of things
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 7 cups)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 6 oz mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled carrots
- Salt and pepper
Heat oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Lightly salt the beef pieces. Working in batches, add the beef to the pot. Don’t crowd the pan or the meat will steam and not brown. Cook, without stirring, until browned on one side, then use tongs to turn the pieces over. Continue to cook in this manner until all sides are browned, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add beef broth, Guinness, red wine, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
While the stew is simmering, melt butter in another large pan over medium heat. Add potatoes, onion, mushrooms and carrots. Sauté vegetables until golden, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
When the stew has simmered 1 hour, add the sautéed vegetables. Simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are very tender, about 40 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Original recipe: Irish Beef Stew, Simply Recipes