Some people call it "cozy." Others call it "hygge." And I call it "making stew."
On even the coldest winter day, the prospect of this Irish beef stew for dinner is a perfect way to hit the reset button.
This time, when the feeling moved me, I thought back to a conversation I had recently with Holly. We were both hyped up from our respective recent visits to Ireland, and since my return, I’ve been tucking in bits of the Emerald Isle wherever I can. This time, I spied Guinness stout in my fridge, and the rest is history.
So here’s the great news: The stew is easy as can be ... but note I didn’t say quick: You will need a bit of time to let slow-cooking make its magic. If you don’t have time on a weeknight, why not make it on a cold weekend afternoon and serve it during the week? It stores beautifully in your refrigerator for a few days (even improving over time as the flavors meld), and it freezes like a champ.
I start with bacon and cook my mirepoix (onions, carrots and celery) in the rendered fat. Talk about irresistible! Layer on the other ingredients, and just like Holly’s Irish-inspired seafood chowder, you’ve got a hearty and flavorful bang for your effort buck.
The Guinness turned out to be the perfect broth for what may be the best beef stew of my life. Call it another stellar benefit of my Irish trip.
At meal time, serve either in a bowl with a spoon (if I’ve elected to include new potatoes) or, quite often, on a plate, with the stew ladled over mashed potatoes, noodles or even grits.
This stew is my new favorite midwinter pick-me-up feast. So if the wind is blowing and the winter blues are starting to get you down, it’s time to make stew – not get into one.
CLARE'S IRISH BEEF STEW
Makes 6 servings
8 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch dice
1 pound onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ pound carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ pound celery, coarsely chopped
1 pound mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely sliced
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon each, salt and freshly ground pepper
3 pounds stewing beef, cut into approximately 1-inch pieces
1 11-ounce bottle Guinness stout, or other dark beer
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 10-ounce package frozen peas
1½ pounds small new potatoes, washed and halved (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Put bacon in a large, heavy lidded pot (which should be large enough to accommodate the entire stew) over medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook until browned, about 10 minutes.
Add the onions, carrots and celery and continue stirring until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and continue cooking and occasionally stirring until the mushrooms have shed most of their liquid and the contents of the pan are lightly browned.
Place the flour, salt and pepper on a plate, and stir to combine. Toss the beef pieces in the flour to coat.
In batches, add the beef pieces to the bacon/vegetable mixture, making sure not to crowd the pan. Stir well and add each additional batch as soon as the previous one is browned. Continue until all the beef has been added and is browned.
Turn the heat down to low and add the Guinness and the thyme. Stir well to combine, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Place the lid onto the pan and allow to cook for 1½ hours on very low heat, stirring occasionally.
Add the frozen peas and potatoes (if using) and allow to cook for 30 minutes more, or until potatoes are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove from the heat and serve immediately, either in bowls or atop mashed potatoes, grits or noodles.