If a good beer makes a good stew then a great beer must make a great stew. Since sampling local microbrewery Yellowbelly’s St. John’s Stout, I have been planning a version of Irish stew using this dark, flavourful beer to test that very thesis. The restaurant and microbrewery located at the corner of George Street and Water Street here in St. John’s, describes this stout as, “full of complex burnt ‘roasty’ flavours”. It is a very intense full flavoured beer indeed, with an appropriate bitter finish. All of these earthy flavours lend themselves well to a slow cooked, deeply rich & flavourful beef stew.

Cooking a great stew is a process of building layers of flavour which meld together to form a dish much greater than the sum of its parts and this one is no exception. The layers of flavour begin with the beef which is dredged in flour before browning. The flour not only aids in browning the beef but also helps to thicken the stew’s rich gravy. The beef is then slowly braised in the stout, beef stock, a little orange juice, garlic, onions, spices and fresh herbs until it is melt-in-your-mouth tender.

Fantastic locally grown vegetables are a must in a stew of this calibre. Bland California-grown imports are practically an insult to the other quality ingredients, so I popped by Fagan’s in Churchill Square to secure some carrots, turnip and sweet parsnip along with some baby yellow potatoes. The vegetables are roasted to caramelize them a little and bring out their natural sweetness before adding them to the stew, providing yet another layer of flavour to the pot. Finally, earthy potatoes and mushrooms help to create as intensely tasty, balanced and complex a stew as the great stout on which it is based.

St. John’s Stout Stew

Serves 8-10

4 lbs beef, cut in 1 ½ inch cubes

Season the beef with salt and pepper then dredge the cubes in plain flour before browning them in some canola oil in a large frying pan. Work in small batches so as not to crowd the pan. This will make browning the beef easier. Transfer the cooked beef to a large covered roasting pan, I use a large enamel covered turkey roaster. To the roasting pan add:

24 ounces Yellowbelly St. John’s Stout
8 cups good beef stock. (If not using homemade, choose a good quality brand, low sodium stock)
8 slices crisp cooked, crumbled bacon
1 cup orange juice
1 whole nutmeg grated
2 tsp cracked black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh rosemary
4 tbsp fresh thyme
½ tsp ground cloves
6 cloves chopped garlic
2 small red onions, minced

Place the covered roaster in a 300 degree F oven for about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, peel and wash:

2 lbs carrots, cut in coins or sticks
1 lb parsnip, cut in large chunks
1 lb turnip, cut in large chunks
1 lb pearl onions

Toss the vegetables in a little olive oil, pepper and sea salt. Place them on a cookie sheet and roast in a 425 degree F oven for about 20 – 30 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables to the slow cooked beef along with:

2 pounds of fingerling or other baby yellow or red potatoes
3 cups button mushrooms

Return to the oven for about another 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Popovers make a nice addition to serve with this great stew.
Popovers

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F

2 eggs
½ cup milk
½ cup water
1 cup flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix together eggs, milk, water, salt and flour with an electric mixer for about a minute. Add the oil and beat for an additional minute.

Spoon the batter into 6 well greased muffin cups or ramekins. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.

For more, visit the chef’s blog