Jan has been cooking and writing about food for over 20 years. She has cooked on multiple television stations, including the Food Network.
An absolutely classic Irish dish: beef braised slowly in Guinness—a luscious Irish stout. This is my version, which means I kept it as simple and clean as possible, since I don't want to interfere with the amazing flavors that develop when these two main ingredients meet and marry over long, slow heat.
This stew is not in the least 'beery,' as I thought it would be when I first heard of it years ago. As it cooks, the flavor of the Guinness becomes mild and rich. Beef-and-alcohol dishes are classic all over the world. In France, it's coq au vin. In Asia, it's Mongolian beef with sake. In Ireland, it's this lovely pot of luscious stuff. The beef cooks slowly with some simple seasonings, and the result is pure succulence. The alcohol burns off, and the acids work their magic on tough cuts of beef, tenderizing them and creating an out-of-this-world sauce.
It's all about the method here, so I keep the ingredients simple. What's wonderful in this dish is what happens to the beef cooking in the Guinness for a long time over slow heat.
You will need:
- 1 lb beef stew meat, trimmed of extra fat
- 1 cup flour—all purpose is fine
- 3 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, divided
- 2 tsp onion powder, divided
- 2 tsp garlic powder, divided
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 4 medium carrots
- 2 large yellow onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 bottle Guinness, a dark stout beer
- 1-2 cups chicken or beef stock (if needed)
- several tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Mix the flour with 1 tsp each of the salt, pepper, and garlic and onion powders. The flour should be savory—if it isn't, season more heavily. This is one of the main flavor bases, so make sure it's done well.
- Heat a tablespoon of the olive oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Working in small batches, dredge the beef in the flour, shaking off the excess.
- Brown the beef in the olive oil a little at a time. Don't crowd the pieces in the pan, or they'll steam instead of brown. Ick. If you're going to cheat on something, pick something else. Poker maybe. Just be patient—it doesn't take that long and makes a big difference. You will probably need to add a little more oil in between batches. As each batch browns, transfer it to a bowl and set aside.
- Once all the beef is browned and set aside, make sure there is a little oil left in the bottom of the pan, adding more if necessary. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic to the pot. Cook them for about ten minutes, or until the onions are translucent and very fragrant. Stir well to scrape the fond—the brown bits—off the bottom of the pot.
- Return the beef to the pot. Add the Guinness, rosemary, thyme, bay leaf, and the remaining salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Stir well. The Guinness should just barely cover the contents of the pot. If it doesn't, add enough chicken or beef stock to cover.
- Reduce heat to a bare simmer. You want almost no movement in the liquid. Cover for about two hours. The meat should be very tender, and the carrots as well. Alternately, you can cook in a very low oven—250°F—for about two hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
You can serve this stew with anything you like. I like to liberally sprinkle it with fresh parsley and serve it either next to or over the top of "poundies," fabulous mashed potatoes.
What Cut of Beef Is Best for Stew?
Traditionally, this dish was made with beef shank, which is a pretty tough cut. Stew beef, of course, is much more common, so that's what I use. I do, however, pick it over and trim it of extra fat, and usually I cut each piece in half to be a better 'bite' size. About 1-inch pieces are what I look for. You could make this dish even less expensive and go straight for a chuck roast. This is usually what grocery store 'stew beef' most often is. If you buy the whole chuck roast, simply cut it into 1-inch pieces yourself, making sure you trim off excess fat, cartilage, and connective tissues.
How to Dredge or Coat the Beef
Fond: the Brown Bits in the Bottom of the Pan
Guinness: Since 1759, the Best Beer in the World
In 1759 a young man by the name of Arthur Guinness found a run down brewery at St. James' Gate in Dublin, Ireland. He talked the owner into a lease and subsequently signed for 9000 years. Yep. 9000 years. He also managed to get that deal for 45£, or at today's exchange rate, approximately $58 a year, so it's possibly the best real estate deal in the history of the world. That just rocks.
By 1769, Guinness began exporting his beer, shipping six and a half barrels to London that year. The Guinness company was producing over a million barrels of beer by the late 19th century. Today the beer is brewed in over 50 different countries, is the most popular and purchased beer in Ireland, and sells at the rate of just over two billion dollars a year.
Guinness is not just drinkable, it makes some pretty classic cocktails and desserts. The rich, full flavor of the beer pairs remarkably well with chocolate, and a Chocolate Guinness Cake appears on our table every year in March.
Guinness uses barley, which is roasted. It's the roasted barley which gives the thick, creamy beer its characteristic roasted flavor, and it's now one of the most iconic and successful brands in the world. Kinda fun, huh?
What's Your Favorite Irish Stew?
© 2010 Jan Charles
Simon Cook from NJ, USA on March 10, 2010:
I make Irish Stew with Guinness all the time - there's such a great boldness to the flavor thanks to the Guinness. My recipe is similar to yours - I also add a little tomato paste too - not really needed I guess!
Now I'm hungry though and lunchtime is an hour away!!!
Great hub - great food!