This Beef & Guinness Stew is a wondrous thing – a rich, heady stew that rides the fine line between the richness of the gravy and slight bitterness of the Guinness; a stew that balances so closely neither sweet or bitter is detected; instead all melds into one glorious and delicious concoction. Even better, it’s topped off with puff pastry! (If you want to, and I know you do! Or maybe that’s just me?) Let’s just say if you do, you’ll look like a genius when you bring this to the table!
I’ve made stew for as long as I can remember but never had a “recipe” till I was in my 40’s. Tossed together, no two were alike. Then the world of cooking exploded with magazines, shows & the internet. For years, I made this Beef & Guinness stew from the Simon Pearce Restaurant.
Chunks of tender beef braised in Guinness and served over potatoes. It was my go to St. Paddy’s dinner for a while. If you make it, watch the timing – it takes about 2 1/2 hours to get tender.
Then my baby Sis told me about another stew. A version of the Cook’s Illustrated Guinness Stew. I dumped the Simon Pearce stew; we became very close friends for a time, the Cook’s stew and I. He never knew, but I cheated, now and then, with others.
If only I could combine the best of all the stews I’ve made in the past, say 40 years or so, and come up with my perfect Guinness stew! I’d want it to be an Irish stew that harkens back to my childhood but upgraded.
And yeah, everyone “knows” coz we’ve heard it a zillion times from all the “experts” Irish stew is made from lamb. What all the “experts” are missing is the “nature” of the Irish stew. Just like a string of Irish ancestresses on my Grandma’s side, dwindling back into obscurity did, I’d choose an inexpensive meat, and a modest amount, which here in the States means beef, not lamb.
I’m sure Catherine Therese, Irene Mary Barnett, her mother, my great-grandmother, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Maloney, and her mother, Bridget Foy, would approve. As would Mothers of the men they married, Lizzie’s mother in law, Mary Ann Mead and her mother in law, Bridget Sullivan. They might not agree with adding the Guinness and probably never tasted it, but they all would know to ‘make do,’ God rest their souls.
They’d agree also, to be sure, to fill it out with vegetables, whatever they could get their hands on, to stretch it: a choice or a mix of potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, carrots, peas, onions and these days, celery. And they wouldn’t be too particular, using what they had and what they liked. The most important thing would be to fill everyone up.
If they had a little salt and pepper, they’d use it, and if they had a few herbs, they’d toss in a pinch. They might roll over in their graves at the thought of a few of my additions, but I can picture them, in their long dresses, their hair wound in braids, at my kitchen table having a taste. Their eyes would widen a bit as they savored their first bite. Not too different, not unrecognizable, just plain delicious.
Served in individual casseroles, this is just enough for four, and feels so special topped with a Puff or Rough Pastry. A mashed potato topping is just as good, though. When I serve like this, I generally don’t use potatoes in the stew, and I take care that all the meat & veggies are just bite-sized and don’t have to be cut. The portions are fairly small, but calories aren’t, so this is lovely with a gorgeous salad on the side.
Tasting and adjusting the stew is important! Different meats, broth, vegetables, etc., all affect the balance and the Guinness adds a bitterness that needs to be dealt with. For best flavor, always make stews a day ahead and gently reheat. This is a great make-ahead strategy and works well when using a pastry topping, too, since the stew has to be cooled first.
Beef & Guinness Pie
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 onions sliced pole to pole
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 to 1 1/4 pound(s) chuck, trimmed of hard fat cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- Salt & pepper
- 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup room temperature Guinness Stout
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme, crush as adding
- 1/4 teaspoon sage, crush as adding
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 to 4 cups vegetables, cut into bite-sized pieces, carrots, celery, parsnips, rutabaga, turnip, potatoes, etc.
- 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 to 2 teaspoon(s) sugar, divided
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon dark jelly or jam, black currant or blackberry, to taste
- dash of Worcestershire, if desired
- a few shakes of Red Wine vinegar, if desired
- 1 sheet frozen or home-made Puff Pastry
- 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Directions for Stew:
In a Dutch oven, cook onions in 1/2 of the butter and olive oil, over moderately low heat, stirring, until the onions begin to soften. Place a lid on and cook slowly for several minutes, then remove and continue to stir now and then until softened and beginning to brown. Add garlic and cook for a moment longer. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl, and reserve.
Trim and cut beef, removing any hard bits of fat, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss in flour. Heat the remaining butter and oil in the Dutch oven over moderately high heat until the foam subsides. Add in the meat and cook until browned on all sides, stirring as necessary and working in batches if needed. Shake the remainder of the flour over the meat if any is left, stirring for a moment or two.
Add in the Guinness, stirring and scraping up the fond on the pan, then the broth, reserved onion mixture, thyme, sage and bay leaf. Add one teaspoon of the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Check the liquid, it should be nearly to the top of the meat. Add more broth or a little water if needed. Cover, bring just up to a boil, then turn down and simmer gently for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally.
Add in your choice of vegetables, stir, checking the liquid in the pan. It should not be so thick that the stew is beginning to stick on the bottom. Add a touch more broth or water if needed. Place the lid back on and bring back to a gentle simmer until meat and vegetables are tender, about another hour. Stir in peas.
Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more salt and/or sugar if needed to balance the acidity of the Guinness. Adjust with a dash or two of the Worcestershire if more depth of flavor is needed, a splash of vinegar, if desired, to brighten and a little jam for richness. Start with the smallest amounts and if you like the direction it is going in, add a little more. I almost always use the vinegar and jam!
Serve immediately unless you’re making individual casseroles, in which case, chill, uncovered, at least 30 minutes.
To bake Casseroles:
Divide stew into serving dishes and chill for at least 30 minutes so the puff pastry will not be affected by the heat of the stew. When assembling, don’t fill ramekins all the way to the top and don’t allow the puff pastry to touch the stew.
Roll out pastry dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 13-inch square, about 1/8 inch thick. Trim edges and cut dough into quarters. Stir together egg and water and brush a 1-inch border of egg wash around each square. Invert 1 square over each bowl and drape, pressing sides lightly to help adhere. Brush pastry tops with some of the remaining egg wash and freeze 15 minutes to thoroughly chill the dough. This helps to keep the pastry from sagging in the oven and touching the stew.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees, set the oven rack to the middle and put a baking tray on the shelf, preferably one with a lip or alternatively use a shallow pan. Don’t use an airbake type tray. (I usually use two pizza pans and two shelves.)
Bake pies in preheated shallow baking pan until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 400°F and bake 5 minutes more to fully cook dough. If the puff pastry has browned, but isn’t quite yet done, it can be covered loosely with a sheet of foil to prevent further browning.
Cool several minutes before serving. Drink rest of Guinness.
- For best flavor, make any stew a day ahead.
- I use this recipe when serving in individual casseroles, but when serving out of the pot, I generally double, add potatoes and use more broth, as well as leave the meat and vegetables in larger chunks.
Put your own Spin on it:
- Vegetables: Instead of the vegetables listed, think about using all quartered mushrooms that have been lightly browned and/or pearl onions. A hard winter squash like butternut in small amounts would be interesting. Leeks would be a great addition.
- Toppings: Vary the topping with mashed potatoes, garlic mashed potatoes, colcannon, phyllo or pie crust. In a pinch, a roll of crescent rolls, seams pressed together will still be delicious.
- Meats: Try this with game or lamb, Seitan for a vegetarian version.
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
A cup of this stew, without puff pastry (which isn’t a huge amount for some) Calories 468; Total Fat 23 g 36 %; Saturated Fat 9 g 43 %; Monounsaturated Fat 11 g; Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 107 mg 36 %; Sodium 799 mg 33 %; Potassium 774 mg 22 %; Total Carbohydrate 25 g 8 %; Dietary Fiber 5 g 19 %; Sugars 12 g; Protein 32 g 64 %; Vitamin A 30 %; Vitamin C 37 %; Calcium 4 %; Iron 53 %
My nutritional calculator indicated the Puff Pastry adds about 256 calories, but keep in mind that some of the puff pastry will get a little stuck to the bowl, so it might not be quite that high.