Last week as part of my Travel Through Food series on CBC radio, I spoke with Tara McCarthy about food in Ireland and what I was cooking up in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day. Today, I made a Guinness Beef Stew that I think, is the best stew I’ve ever made, and there are two reasons why I believe that to be so: 1) I used a blend of leftover roasted brisket jus and beef broth for the stock, and 2) I used Dexter beef from The Butchery at Rge Rd who sources it from Adrian Hykaway of Tandria Dexters near Fort Saskatchewan.
Dexter is a cattle breed that originated in Ireland, was nearly depleted there but kept in existence in England and then Australia, the USA and Canada. It is a smaller animal—about half the size of a Hereford, and a third the size of a Holstein.
The Dexter breed is versatile and well-tempered. The cows calve easily and are known to be good mothers that produce a substantial amount of milk. Mature and market ready, the animal yields a good amount of well-marbled meat.
This is the first time I’ve cooked with Dexter beef although I have eaten it at Rge Rd in the past in steak form, and all I can say is this meat is absolutely terrific. I’ve never had a stew with meat so flavourful and tender. Every bite was a delicious revelation.
Currently, The Butchery has Dexter beef in various cuts except stewing beef. Apparently, I got the last of it, and I’m sorry about that, but I had no idea until a few minutes ago when I talked to Blair Lebsack at The Butchery. You can still use other cuts, it’s just perhaps not the most economical route. They will be getting a full carcass in at the beginning of April, so I suggest you call to make arrangements if you specifically want stewing beef from that supply. The Butchery has stewing beef from other breeds on hand but for this dish, and in preparation for St. Patrick’s day, I wanted to use an Irish breed for this particular stew.
A note about the size of stewing beef chunks: The Dexter stewing meat that I received was cut into rather large chunks. My instinct was to cut them down smaller (why? I have no idea), but do not do that. The 90 minutes or so that it takes to simmer gives the marbling sufficient time to break down and imbue the protein fibres with all that luscious goodness. I can’t speak about the stewing beef you get from a grocery store, but in the case of this Dexter beef, trust the butcher.
So, off you go: get your beef, buy some Guinness, and get cooking.
This recipe will generously serve three to four people. See the full recipe after the stew-in-progress pictures featured below:
Guinness Beef Stew
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1.5 lbs stewing beef
- 1 cup flour seasoned with 2 tsp salt and 1 tbsp pepper
- 1 large onion (yellow or white), peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves peeled garlic, minced
- 12 ounces Guinness beer (500 ml can)
- 3.5 cups beef stock
- 2 celery sticks, chopped
- 4 carrots, (peeled if needed) and chopped into bite-size pieces
- 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
- 6 small waxy potatoes, chopped into bite-size pieces (fingerling potatoes are perfect)
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- In a large bowl, add the 1 cup of flour and mix with salt and pepper to season. Add meat and toss to coat.
- Heat oil in a large Dutch oven on medium heat. Add beef and brown on all sides - about 40 seconds per side. Set aside in a deep dish to catch the juices. Do NOT throw out the seasoned flour, you'll need it in a few more steps.
- Add onions to the pot. You might have to add a bit more oil if it's gone too dry. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes, add garlic, sweat for a few minutes.
- Add the leftover seasoned flour and stir to coat the onions.
- Gradually add the Guinness while stirring and scraping the beautiful browned bits with a wooden spoon. Save about 1/2 cup of beer for yourself. The whole can will be too much for the recipe.
- Add the browned beef with its juices, the stock, vegetables and herbs. Cook covered on a low simmer for 90 minutes. Garnish with parsley.
- Open another beer and dig in.