Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen On The Road: Irish Guinness Stout Stew

About two years ago, my husband and I went on a family vacation to Ireland.  While we were in Dublin, a fun loving, carefree city, we visited, like most American Tourists, the Guinness Storehouse.  This was a highlight of our time in Dublin, which was a magical city to explore on foot (one of the other highlights was by chance catching a tiny R.E.M. concert at the Olympia Theater, which set us back a day or two in recovering from jet lag).  At any rate, while in Dublin, we tasted several excellent traditional Irish stews, prepared using Dublin's famed Guinness Stout.

Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout.  It has a deep, rich, heavy flavor (it's like a meal, really) that works well with a beef stew.  However, as guest writer Bryan noted to me last week, if you use too much Guinness, it will impart a bitter flavor to your stew.

I made this stew in a very impromptu manner.    I was unhappy with all of the recipes that I found online, so I started from scratch, and tried to create a hearty stew that would be enriched by the deep flavor of the Guinness.  I decided before I started that I was in the mood for a pretty unhealthy (but very tasty) version of this stew, which meant that I sauteed my ingredients using butter rather than my usual canola oil (I suppose Julia Child would be happy since I usually disregard her love for butter in favor of a healthier style of cooking with canola oil).

Here is the recipe that I used to make my version of this Irish classic:

Sasha's Irish Guinness Stout Stew

4 cups beef broth
4 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups Guinness Stout
2 lb stewing beef
1 large onion
3 T butter
2 T canola oil
three large handfuls of baby carrots
4 T of flour
3 T tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

First, I diced the onion, and sauteed the onion and carrots for a few minutes in the butter and canola oil, until the onion was soft in my Dutch Oven.  Then, I added the meat to the Dutch Oven, after tossing it in 2 T of flour.  I braised the meat in the butter and canola oil for about five more minutes, until it was browned on all sides.  Then, I added the herbs, beef broth, Guinness and tomato paste to the pot and brought the mixture to a boil.   After the stew was boiling, I reduced the heat to simmer and continued to simmer for quite awhile (about thirty to forth minutes or so) until the soup was thickened to a stew.

To thicken the stew, I used my mom's trick and added 2 T of flour (or, you could use cornstarch) to a half cup of the broth and mixed well before adding back into the stew.  This really helped the thickening process, while completing the process in the manner I suggested helps avoid clumping in the stew.

The end result was a delicious thick and hearty broth that had a strong thyme flavor, as well as the hearty deep flavor imparted by the Guinness.

Have some extra Guinness?  Make my Chocolate Stout Cupcakes next.

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