Precious years were stripped from my life that day, like old varnish from a weathered antique chest. I can only imagine the look of sheer elation on my face, as we careened into our final destination: the car rental drop-off in Dublin, Ireland.
After much white-knuckle maneuvering through the heart of Ireland’s narrow, windy roads, the cure for my shattered nerves was nearing by the mile. It came straight from the source, in its most unadulterated form. It was perfect. It was frothy. And, it was the best pint of Guinness to ever cross my lips.
A friend from Ireland recently inspired this riff on a traditional beef stew. While Guinness would work equally well in this recipe, I wanted something a little richer for this dead of winter bowl of comfort. A local brewery serves up an oatmeal stout that pours black, with a thick, whipped cappuccino foam. Rich notes of cacao, dark roast coffee and wood-fired oats twist and dance around the palate like a rattlesnake about to strike.
The sweet finish, like the perfect bite of toffee or a finger dipped in slow-pouring molasses, accentuates the hearty root vegetables and beef bringing together a bowl of something cooked ever so slowly, very warming, and incredibly special.
- 2 1/2 pounds organic beef stew meat (shoulder/chuck), trimmed of excess fat and cut into medium cubes
- 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour (all-purpose flour will work well, too)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
- 5 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 2 tablespoons dried thyme
- 2 tablespoons dried fennel
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 ounces of tomato paste
- 22 ounces of oatmeal stout
- 1 bottle of decent-quality red wine (a blend works well, something jammy)
- 4 medium parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 12 medium fingerling potatoes, roughly chopped
- sea salt + freshly cracked black pepper
- fresh thyme leaves or Italian parsley, to garnish
On a glass plate, season the flour with salt and pepper and toss the meat in the mixture to coat. In a large Dutch oven or other heavy stock pot, add the olive oil over medium-high heat. Shake off any excess flour and add the beef in batches to avoid crowding allowing it to caramelize on all sides. Remove from the pot and continue until all of your meat is golden brown. Set aside.
Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until beginning to soften, about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste, thyme, fennel and bay leaves and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
To this mixture, add the caramelized beef, stout and red wine and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching.
About 1 1/2 hours into the cooking process, begin to prepare your vegetables. Add them to the mixture and allow to cook for another 1 1/2-2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper, if needed.
Garnish with fresh thyme leaves or finely diced Italian parsley + enjoy!