04 February 2013

Irish Stew

I've been asked a couple of times for my recipe for Irish Stew, and I've typically demurred, since I don't really know in advance what I'm going to do with it - it just sorta ... happens1.

Anyhow, this weekend, I sat down with a supply of ingredients and decided I was going to keep track of what I did. I actually meant to take pictures, but by the time I remembered to do so, my hands were already covered with fixin's, and I had less than no desire to handle my phone. I'll try and plan better next time.

So here goes.

Irish Stew

Serves 4-6 (or one for a week)

Dramatis Personae

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • Seasonings for beef (to taste)
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Secret herbs and spices
  • Cooking oil
  • 2 lbs stew beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped (can substitute 4 tbs dried minced onion)
  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 6-7 cups chopped potatoes
  • 2-4 cups chopped carrots
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups beef broth
Act I
  1. Combine flour and beef seasonings in a shallow preparation dish and blend. I tend to put in about a tablespoon of salt (I'm guessing here), then add pepper and Mrs Dash Garlic and Herb until, when I mix it all together, I can see the pepper and herbs clearly in the flour (Here's where those pictures would come in handy, eh?). I wish I had more advice to give here, but this is spidey-sense cooking.
  2. Place a dollop of oil in a cast iron skillet and bring to med-high heat. I use grapeseed oil, since it smokes at a higher temperature, but if you're careful and have good ventilation, a lower-temp oil like olive or vegetable will work, too.
  3. Working in batches, coat cubes of beef with the flour mixture, then sear on all sides before transferring to stew pot. You're not looking to cook the beef through here, just to get it brown on all sides. Be careful not to scrape up too much of what's left on the bottom of the pan - just let it sit there and soak up all the awesomeness. If you run out of oil and the beef starts to stick to the pan too badly, add another dollop to the skillet between batches.
  4. Once all the beef is seared, drop the onions in the skillet. If using fresh onions, add a bit of oil or butter and stir occasionally until they begin to caramelize.
  5. Add Guinness to onions and allow to simmer while you scrape the bottom of the pan to add all those beautiful flavors to the mixture, then pour the whole mixture into the stew pot. Bring stew pot to low-medium heat and drink the rest of your bottle of Guinness while scrubbing the skillet - we're done with it.
Act II
  1. Clean and chop potatoes and carrots into stew-sized chunks, adding to stew as ready. If you chopped them in advance, no worries, just toss 'em in!
  2. Add garlic, tomato paste, and Worcestershire sauce, and bay leaves. Stir heartily to get the ingredients well-blended.
  3. Add beef broth, cover, and raise to medium heat. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is fully cooked and vegetables are tender and calling your name (around 45 minutes, I find). If the stew looks too thin, remove cover and allow to boil down some.

    Alternately, after adding the broth, leave on low-medium heat for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Take care not to allow too much liquid to boil off, but the longer this cooks, the richer the flavors will be in the end.
The original recipes I modified this from have been lost to the sands of time, but I remember that one called for adding a cup of red wine along with the Guinness. Another called for the addition of celery and chopped tomatoes to the cast of characters. Others still recommended a dash of sugar, cinnamon, clove, or allspice. And each had its own blend of herbs and spices that they recommended be added to the stew - parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme (I kid you not), paprika, saffron, cayenne pepper, and more.

So yeah, do what I did and steal what you like from everything you see. Make a stew that you love, then tell me how you do it. That's what makes a recipe like this great.

- A friend of mine, when asking for the recipe recently, put it this way. It's pretty accurate.
I know you make it like I make gumbo which is sort of a "let's add this and maybe some of this and oh, look, here's something to try."

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! Thanks. I'll be trying this in the near future.