If you asked me last week, I would have told you I hated beef stew. In fact, that's what I told my sister
when she asked me if I had a good recipe for beef stew that I could share. What I said exactly was "Eeew, no, gross -- I hate beef stew."
I was basing this condemnation on being forced to eat beef stew when I was, oh, probably about eight years old.
So my non-eight-year-old self gave it some thought. Really, what's to hate? Beef? No, I'm the meatasaurus, remember? Root vegetables? Nyet, I dig them. Beer or wine (as either works)? Yeah, that's hilarious -- not bloody likely.
Therefore, I decided to give beef stew a second chance by making my own, with two ninja twists:
- I added Guinness for a St. Patrick's Day theme
- I swapped out the beef for venison
Regular readers will remember that one of the reasons I was so excited to move into our current home two years ago was because of the wee orchard on the property -- lovely little apple, pear, cherry and peach trees, although none have been very prolific. Except for the pears, right after we moved in.
One of the pear trees was simply loaded with perfect little pears. I walked out to visit them every day and was making big plans for pear jam, pear bread and dried pear slices. I just kept waiting for the perfect time to harvest them.
Apparently I waited one damned day too long.
Over the course of one night, the deer that live on our property (no more than 2 or 3 at a time) ate all the pears they could reach. Being a fairly young pear tree, that was pretty much all of them, except for four measly little pears at the very top of the tree.
Hence the vendetta. Or, to be really accurate, vendetta by proxy.
Not being hunters ourselves, we have given a local man permission to hunt on our property, with the caveat that if he bags a deer, he must share some of the venison with us.
The first year, just after The Great Pear Massacre? No deer. So the vendetta simply simmered for another year.
But last year? Bingo: a large buck. And, true to his word, my proxy dropped off two packages of lean, lovely venison. Vendetta success.
Given that this venison was truly and widely free ranging (based on watching first-hand its white-tailed ass crashing through the woods), it was very, very lean. Which I knew would likely translate into very, very tough; it seemed an ideal candidate for this beef stew.
Results? I don't hate beef stew anymore! Especially when it's made with a hearty stout and vendetta venison.
I had been advised that initially searing the meat, to lock in moisture, is key to making a good stew; I would have to agree, so don't skip that step. Additionally, the long, slow simmer really brought all the bold flavors together, and the Guinness added a dark richness that nicely complemented the venison. When (not if) I make it again, I think I'll try beef with red wine in place of the venison and Guinness.
I had been hoping that this stew might, even just a little bit, taste of pears. In my head, I guess it did.
Guinness Beef (or Venison) Stew (adapted from Yummly)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean beef or venison, cubed
1 large onion, chopped
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 1/2 cups beef broth
1 14.9-ounce can Guinness stout
3 cups sliced carrots, peeled and sliced
2 medium yukon gold potatoes, skinned and diced
Parsley, for serving
Heat the olive oil a large, heavy-duty pot (I used an enameled cast-iron dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add the meat and sear on each side, making sure each side gets fairly browned. Work in batches if you need to. Remove the meat and put in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper.
Add the onion, mushrooms and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender (about 5 minutes). Add the tomato paste and mix it all up, then sprinkle with flour and stir until all combined (it's pretty gloppy at this point). Next, stir in the beer, being sure to scrape up any bits left at the bottom of the pot. Add the broth and return the meat to the pot, cover and simmer for about 35-40 minutes.
Add the carrots and potatoes to the pot, give it all a thorough stirring, recover and continue to simmer for another 45-50 minutes. At this point, you can just turn the heat off and leave it on the stove -- it will remain nice and hot for at least 20 minutes or so, while you get the rest of your meal together. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley before serving.