Beef and Guinness stew is a pub classic with its roots firmly bedded in the deep soil of Irish cooking and culture. What could be more Irish than dark, creamy Guinness stout and that Irish mainstay, potatoes? Add carrots and onions (both vegetables that grow well in Ireland’s often fickle climate), and a few modest bits of beef, and you have the makings of a hearty meal fit for St. Patrick himself.
Mushrooms may not be an ingredient that immediately springs to mind when you think of Irish cookery, but many delectable fungi grow prolificly in Ireland’s cool, rainy climate. Among them are the prized Boletus edulis, most often called by its well-known Italian name – porcini.
It’s a curious fact that many mushrooms, porcini among them, become more intensely flavorful with drying. We’ve used dried porcini here, along with the flavorful liquid used to reconstitute them, to add layers of complexity and nuances of subtle flavor that perfectly complement the slight sweetness and mild bitterness of the chocolaty stout.
This stew proves the old adage, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” With long, slow simmering, a pot full of simple, homely ingredients becomes an edible symbol of a season, an event, even an entire culture.
Beef and Guinness Stew with Wild Mushrooms
Stews needn’t be overly complicated or fussy in their preparation. Born from humble origins, nourishing, hearty stews have sustained working families with limited resources for many generations. It takes a clever cook to coax every bit of flavor and nutrition from a few handfuls of ingredients.
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb lean beef or bison stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms, or other dried mushrooms
- 1 bottle Guinness Stout or other dark beer
- 4 cups beef or chicken stock
- 1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 lb fingerling potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 4 large carrots, peeled, halved and cut into 2-inch pieces
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 – 4 fresh thyme sprigs, plus additional for garnish (optional)
Reconstitute the dried mushrooms by placing them in a bowl and covering with 2 cups of very hot water. Allow to stand for 20 – 30 minutes, or until very soft and pliable. Drain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Rinse the mushrooms gently under cool running water, press out the excess water and chop coarsely.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef, taking care not to crowd the pan, and cook in batches, turning to brown on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, remove the browned beef to a plate or bowl. Continue working in batches until all the beef is cooked.
Pour off all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil and return the pot to the heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beer and stock to the pan. Carefully pour in the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, leaving any settled sediments behind. Bring to a low boil, gently stirring and scraping the bottom to loosen the flavorful browned bits.
Return the beef to the pot along with the carrots and potatoes. Tie the thyme sprigs into a bundle with kitchen string or thread and toss them in. Season with a little salt and pepper. Adjust the heat to a low simmer and cook uncovered until the beef is very tender, 60 – 90 minutes.
Remove the bundle of thyme stems and discard. Taste and add more salt and pepper as needed. Ladle into bowls, garnish with fresh thyme sprigs (if using), and serve with a pint of Guinness and warm Irish Soda Bread (recipe follows).
Irish Soda Bread
From “The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook”
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 13/4 cups stone ground whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) butter
- 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 375°.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter two knives or a cutter until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.
Add the buttermilk and stir with a spoon until it just holds together (20 seconds). Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently 8 to 10 times.
You can bake this as a single loaf or cut the dough in half and bake two. Whichever you choose, form each into a slightly flattened round and place on a floured baking sheet.
With a sharp knife or razor blade, cut about 3/4 inch into the dough in the form of a cross as if you were going to quarter it.Dust a bit of flour over the top and place the bread in your oven to bake for 30 minutes for 2 small loaves or 40 minutes for one large one.
Remove the bread from the oven and lay a damp cloth over it until it is cool. Or don’t wait and eat some right away with butter and jam while it’s still warm.
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