Does anyone actually enjoy green beer? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Having grown up in a party college town where the most popular bar around was an Irish-themed pub, I’ve seen my share of St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Green jello shots, felt shamrocks hats, goofy cocktails (note to self: avoid anything with the word ‘car bomb’ in it), most of these things just seem silly and cringe-inducing in post-college life. But does that mean that we throw out everything about St Paddy’s Day once we graduate from green-dyed drinks and face paint? Absolutely not! After all, who can resist the Irish charm of a perfect pint of Guinness? These days, my favorite way to consume that pint is to pour it straight into a batch of rich beef stew.
The malty, roasted flavors of Guinness pair perfectly with this dark stew, and this hearty recipe is perfect for those chilly March days if you live in an area where spring hasn’t fully arrived yet--not the case here, where the long sunlit fingers of our days are stretching the temps into the nineties already. Topped with indulgent, cheese-laced mashed potatoes, my Guinness stew is constructed a bit like a shepherd's or cottage pie. It's a complete meal in a casserole dish...and your best choice for a ‘grownup’ St Patrick’s Day celebration!
2 strips bacon, diced into 1/2″ pieces
2 lbs boneless beef chuck or round, sliced into 1″ cubes
1 white onion, diced into 1″ pieces
1 pint Guinness
1/2 cup beef stock
1 lb carrots, peeled & cut into 1″ lengths
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned & peeled
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup grated cheese (aged Irish cheddar or Parmesan are my go-tos)
3 sprigs fresh thyme
salt & pepper
Heat a large, deep skillet to medium high heat. Saute the bacon, set aside but do not wipe out pan. Dry the cubes of beef well (important step, this will make sure they brown nicely) with a paper towel and sprinkle lightly with salt. Add cubes of beef to pan (do this in two batches; it’s important not to overcrowd the pan so the meat can brown nicely) and cook until brown on all sides over medium heat. Set meat aside once cooked. Add onion to pan and stir until softened. Add Guinness and cook until liquid is reduced by half. Add beef cubes, stock and all the carrots, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes.
While stew is simmering, place potatoes in a large pot and cover with generously salted water. Boil potatoes until tender, about 20 minutes, then drain water. Add milk and grated cheese and mash until smooth & creamy, set aside. Taste the stew, and add salt if necessary. Add fresh thyme and a little freshly ground black pepper. Preheat oven to 350. Place stew into a large casserole dish, or use several small ones for individual servings. Arrange mashed potato layer on top so that it forms a kind of ‘lid’ for the stew. Don’t smooth the tops of the potatoes too much, I like to rough them up with a fork until they’re a bit spiky and uneven, so that they will develop nice brown crusty tops (brown + crusty = yay, flavor!).
Place casserole dish (or dishes) on a baking sheet, place in preheated oven. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are lightly browned. Remove and let cool for about ten minutes, then serve while warm.