Phil took one bite of this Make-ahead Irish Guinness Stew and immediately decreed that I should forget about every other stew recipe from now on and just make THIS. “Let’s not get hasty,” I told him. But it WAS really good.
Why Make-Ahead Irish Guinness Stew?
Stews are one thing that I make at least a day before we plan to eat them. There are several advantages to this strategy:
- You can make the stew “in the background” on a less hectic weekend morning or afternoon (if you have those, that is);
- The flavors deepen and marry as the stew sits in the refrigerator;
- There is no need to de-grease the stew with the work-ahead method: simply scrape any accumulated, solidified fat from the top of the soup before reheating;
- Simply having to heat the soup through before serving makes this an ideal dinner for busy weeknights.
The meat for Make-Ahead Irish Guinness Stew
First, a rant about frugality and stew meat…
I never buy pre-cut “stew meat”. First, you always pay extra for the convenience of having the meat cut into chunks for you. Second, “stew meat” might as well be called “odds and ends.” Not only are the chunk sizes frequently all over the map, but they’re also often not even from the same cut of meat.
This means that lean and fat cuts are randomly mixed together. I probably don’t have to tell you that this means inconsistent cooking, and therefore, not good eats.
Lamb vs. beef
I absolutely adore lamb shoulder in this stew. But with that being said, it’s sometimes easier (and more economical) to find a good chuck roast. As you break down the roast (whether you choose lamb shoulder or beef chuck roast), you’ll notice that the roast pulls apart easily into “meat bundles” surrounded (except for the cut sides) by membranes: fascia and tendon sheaths, which are gristly if not removed. Once you trim away this gristle and any excess fat, you can easily cut everything into bite-sized cubes. If you like, you can even break this step out on its own and prep the meat the night before you plan to cook the stew.
In fact, I sometimes prep stew meat and immediately store it in the freezer for future use.
In my opinion, chuck roast is easier to prep than lamb shoulder, but the difference isn’t so great that you shouldn’t snap up a lamb shoulder if you can get it—especially if it’s on a raging sale.
Vegetables for Make-Ahead Irish Guinness Stew
Crockpot stews fall down in the veggie department, IMHO. By the time the meat is fall-apart tender, much of the veg will have…well, fallen apart. For this reason, because I want the potatoes and carrots to shine, I par-cook them (by steaming or boiling) until they’re tender. Then I add them to the stew for the last 30 minutes of cooking. You can do this part up to a day in advance: just keep the veggies refrigerated in an airtight container. (You can choose not to par-cook the potatoes and carrots: your stew will still be yummy.)
The exception to this rule is the onion and celery: I use them in forming the base of the soup, so they melt right into the finished broth—I’m not worried about that. If you’d like to add in some frozen pearl onions near the end of the cook time, be my guest!
A traditional Irish Guinness stew will have parsnips, either instead of or in addition to the potatoes. My grocery was a bit sad in the parsnip department, unfortunately, so this recipe for Make-Ahead Irish Guinness Stew went without. However, you’re welcome to add them back in if that’s your preference.
Make-ahead Irish Guinness Stew: about the Guinness
We use a 14-oz can of Guinness Stout for this recipe (you can also use Guinness Draught). Added to that liquid are beef stock and the juices from the beef itself. The stew cooks for several hours, during which time most (if not all) of the alcohol cooks out of the Guinness. All we’re left with at the end is a deliciously complex, rich broth with no detectable “beery flavor”. Obvo, it’s not Irish Guinness Stew without the Guinness, but I do offer an option if you’d rather leave the alcohol out.
Final notes on Make-ahead Irish Guinness Stew
The thickness of the broth for this stew is how I like it—I’d call it “middle of the road”—but I understand that this is not everyone’s preference. The good news is that fixing the consistency of the broth is really easy. The cornstarch slurry hack that I explain in my recipe notes (below) is tried and true. If you don’t already know it, you’ll want to file it away in your memory banks because it’s invaluable for fixing the thickness not only of stews, but also gravies and other sauces. Has it saved my Thanksgiving gravy more than once? YOU BET.
Leftover Make-ahead Irish Guinness Stew will taste EVEN BETTER. I have frozen the leftovers as well. Even though cooked potatoes don’t always freeze well, for us the thawed and reheated stew was still fabulous.
This recipe illustrates how you can break a more difficult, involved recipe into a couple of days. This is the “Saucy Two-Step/Work-Ahead” move from the Flipped-Out Food Playbook. This strategy enables you to deliver delicious, gourmet meals even on busy weeknights. I hope that you love cooking this way. Bon Appetit!
I’m linking my Make-Ahead Irish Guinness Stew recipe up with:
- #CookBlogShare, a great food blogger recipe-share at Everyday Healthy Recipes.
- #CookOnceEatTwice, for recipes that are just as good left-over as they are when you made them, hosted by Searching for Spice.
- #RecipeOfTheWeek hosted by A Mummy Too.
- #BrillBlogPosts, a link party with a variety of lifestyle reads hosted by Honest Mum.
Make-ahead Irish Guinness Stew is the perfect comfort food for celebrating Saint Paddy's Day. Beef is slowly simmered in Guinness Stout to achieve an incomparably rich, complex broth. Make it in advance in the oven or crockpot for an easy meal during the busy workweek. To make it truly traditional, serve over mashed potatoes or colcannon.
- 3 lbs lamb shoulder OR beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into ~3/4" cubes
- 4 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil, divided (more if necessary)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 celery stalks, washed, trimmed, and diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 sprigs sprigs fresh rosemary, needles removed and minced, stem reserved
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and minced (discard stems)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp Asian fish sauce (see Recipe Note #1)
- 14 oz Guinness Stout: look for 14-oz. cans; you can also use Guinness Draught. (See Recipe Note #2)
- 3 cups beef stock
- 1 lb baby potatoes, washed and cut in half
- 3 cups baby carrots, washed and cut in half
- 2 tbsp cornstarch (if necessary: see Recipe Note #3)
Preheat oven to 325º. Dry the meat with paper towels and add to a mixing bowl. Season the flour with the salt and pepper, then dust over the meat cubes. Mix well to coat. Set a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp. of the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add ¼ of the meat cubes (dust off any excess flour). Brown the meat cubes deeply on at least two sides, then remove to a bowl and add the next small batch of meat cubes. Repeat until all meat cubes have been browned, adding more oil as necessary between batches to prevent the pot from drying out.
Reduce heat to medium and add the diced onion and celery, adding more oil to the pot if needed. Sauté until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary stem and needles, thyme leaves, and bay leaves; sauté for an additional minute. Add in the fish sauce. Stir for 30 seconds, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the Guinness (IF your Guinness contains a nitrogen capsule [you can hear it rattling in the can], allow it to discharge for 10 seconds after cracking the can open). Continue to stir and scrape for 1 minute. Add the meat cubes back to the pot along with any accumulated juices. Add the beef stock; stir to combine. Lid the pot and place into the oven.
Steam or par-boil the remaining vegetables until you can pierce them easily with a paring knife (there shouldn't be any resistance at all; see Recipe Note #3). Add the vegetables to the stew for the last 30 minutes of cook time. During this final 30 minutes, leave the lid cracked open slightly.
Remove the pot from the oven after the vegetables have cooked for 30 minutes (the stew has now cooked for 3h total). Place the pot into a sink filled 1/4 of the way with cold water. Let cool for 15–20 minutes. Dry the bottom of the pot and transfer to the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Dry the meat with paper towels and add to a mixing bowl. Season the flour with the salt and pepper, then dust over the meat cubes. Mix well to coat. Set a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp. of the vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add ¼ of the meat cubes (dust off any excess flour). Brown the meat cubes deeply on at least two sides, then remove to the crock of your slow-cooker and add the next small batch of meat cubes. Repeat until all meat cubes have been browned, adding more oil as necessary between batches to keep the pot from drying out.
Reduce heat to medium and add the diced onion and celery, adding more oil to the pot if needed. Sauté until softened, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic, rosemary stem and needles, thyme leaves, and bay leaves; sauté an additional minute. Add in the fish sauce. Stir for 30 seconds, scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add the Guinness (IF your Guinness contains a nitrogen capsule [you can hear it rattling in the can], allow it to discharge for 10 seconds after cracking the can open). Continue to stir and scrape for 1 minute.
Scoop the contents of the pot into the crock of your slow-cooker along with the beef cubes and any accumulated juices. If there are still browned bits on the bottom of the pot, add the beef stock and continue to scrape. Transfer to the slow-cooker. (Otherwise, add the beef stock directly to the slow-cooker.)
Lid the slow-cooker and set on low for at least 6 hours and up to 8. Meanwhile, steam or par-boil the remaining vegetables until you can pierce them easily with a paring knife (there shouldn't be any resistance at all). Add the vegetables to the stew for the last 30 minutes of cook time (turn the slow-cooker to high; see Recipe Note #3).
Cool the stew by placing the crock of the slow cooker into a sink filled 1/4 of the way with cool water. Remove the stew to an airtight container and refrigerate.
On the day that you plan to eat the stew, remove the pot/storage container from the refrigerator and skim off any solidified fat that has accumulated on top of the stew. Reheat in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Check seasoning, adjusting as necessary. (See Recipe Note #4 for adjusting thickness.) Serve with a chunk of crusty bread, or over mashed potatoes or colcannon. Enjoy!
- Adding Asian fish sauce will not result in a fishy flavor. It's the same concept as adding Worcestershire sauce: it adds a complex umami/salty flavor to the broth.
- The alcohol cooks almost entirely out of the broth and is not detectable as an alcoholic/beery flavor. If you cannot consume alcohol, you can simply substitute an additional 1 and 3/4 cups of beef broth. It won't be the same, but it will still be delicious. In this case, the stew is more of a traditional beef or lamb stew (i.e., not Irish).
- You can par-cook the vegetables up to a day in advance: just keep them in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. You don't have to par-cook the vegetables (just be aware that they may be overcooked. Don't worry: the stew will still be yummy). If you choose to skip this step, simply add the potatoes and carrots when you return the browned meat cubes to the pot (or crock of the slow-cooker).
- Adjusting the thickness of the broth. On the day that you're planning to serve the stew (i.e., when the stew is reheated):
- If the broth is too thick for your liking, simply add additional beef stock or water until the stew reaches the consistency you prefer (go slowly!).
- If you prefer a thicker stew, the first option is to simmer the stew with the lid off for about 30 minutes to reduce the liquid. Or, you can use the cornstarch slurry method: mix 2 tbsp of cornstarch with 2 tbsp of cold water. Mix ONE TABLESPOON of the slurry into the simmering stew and let thicken for 30 seconds. Stir. If the stew is still not quite thick enough, add additional cornstarch slurry 1 tsp at a time (re-mix first!), following the steps above, until the stew reaches your preferred thickness. Don't go beyond the 4 tbsp total of slurry, though, or you risk the stew becoming "sandy" in texture.
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