Irish Beef Stew

It figures the day I had planned to cook this Irish Beef Stew, Mother Nature decided to bring us a record setting warm temperature of 70 degrees! Here in eastern Pennsylvania that almost feels like summer. Oh well. It went back down to 50 today with lots of wind, so the leftovers hit the spot.

I am a little bit Irish, with some Italian and German in me as well…so I thought I’d post something for a St. Patrick’s Day dinner. Unless you’d prefer to have the St. Patrick’s Day Ombre Cupcakes as a meal. I won’t judge. This stew is very hearty and filling and makes your house smell terrific.

I had found a recipe here, but in my search I found many others that were basically the same with minor adjustments. I just combined a few and got this:

Irish Beef Stew
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lb. beef stew meat
6-7 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine
1 cup Irish stout beer, such as Guinness
6 cups beef stock or beef broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3-4 dried bay leaves (leave whole as you will need to fish them out later!)
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 lbs. Russet potatoes, (I used Yukon Gold because they are so creamy, about 1/2 of a 5 lb. bag) cut roughly into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 lb. parsnips (these are light in color and taste like sweeter carrots), peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, chopped (or use 2 small onions)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon cold water
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

{Here’s the deal…you can certainly omit the red wine and beer and just replace them with beef stock. I didn’t have any Guinness beer on hand and just used stock in its place. If you can get some in there it’s worth it. I have heard of using ginger ale instead of the beer, but I can’t comment on its results. You can also replace the red wine with red cooking wine, but a good red wine would be better, of course. If you are omitting the wine and beer, try to use a beef stock, rather than a broth.}

Get out a big, heavy pot and heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the beef and cook the pieces in two batches so they are browned on all sides. If you put too many pieces in the pot, they will steam instead of brown. You want to see the caramelization happening. This will take about 5 minutes for each batch. Then add the minced garlic and saute for a minute or so.

Before you burn the garlic, add in the red wine, Guinness beer, beef stock, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. {Do not add the vegetables yet!} Stir it all up and bring to a boil. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The longer the better, but you do want to eat at some point I’m sure… The next step can be done at this point or you can wait until your meat and broth has simmered for about 2 hours. Do you want to get it over with? Or do you want to pat yourself on the back for getting that part done and go relax? It’s your call.

When you are ready, peel and cut up your parsnips, carrots, potatoes and onions. In a separate (large) pan, melt the butter on medium heat and dump in all the vegetables that you just chopped up. Salt and pepper to taste. You want to saute them until they get a little bit golden brown in color, about 15-20 minutes. If you did this step right after you cover and simmer the meat, set aside for later.

When the meat has simmered for at least 2 hours (I did mine for 2 1/2 hours), carefully add your veggies to the meat and broth pot.

{Um, when it cooks down, it looks a whole lot better than that…Promise.}

Bring back up to a boil, turn heat back down to simmer. Cook all this goodness together, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.

{Don’t forget to take out the bay leaves before serving! You do not want to bite into one of those things, trust me.}

You’ll want to thicken the broth up a bit right before serving so in a little bowl mix 1 tablespoon corn starch with 1 tablespoon COLD water. SLOWLY stir this into your stew. Taste your stew. Season to your liking with salt & pepper. If your stew has a layer of grease at the top, you can skim most of it off with a spoon. Mine did not — maybe I used a leaner beef. If you want to be all fancy, sprinkle chopped flat leaf parsley on top of each serving. I baked up some breadsticks to serve alongside each bowl or you can rip off a hunk of crusty bread and serve with it for dipping. Recipe serves 4-6 and it’s even better the next day.

Happy Bay Leaf Hunting!