Sunday, October 18, 2009

Beer Beef Stew

While it's not a cold Sunday, it's Sunday nevertheless and it's time to watch football, drink a few microbrews, and catch up on some work. I've been meaning to make beef stew for quite some time, so what better time than now? Since I am enjoying a few beers from New Belgium brewing company, I decided to use their 1554 Belgium Style Black Ale in the stew. Here is the list of ingredients:

2# Sirloin, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 large russet potatoes, cut into cubes
3 large carrots, cut into circles
1 large white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chicken stock
1 bottle of beer
Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp basil
5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
olive oil

First, I cut the steak into cubes and placed them in a plastic bag with flour, salt, and pepper and shook to coat. Heat a pan to medium high and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Brown meat slowly, but don't cook through. Remove the beef and add some more olive oil and about a tablespoon of butter to the pan. Add the chopped onions and lightly caramelize. Add smashed garlic to the onions with a few minutes remaining.

At this point, I had a little extra fat in the pan so I added a few teaspoons of the flour to the onions and beef. This is okay since it will help to thicken up the sauce in the end.

Deglaze pan with a bottle of dark beer and return beef to the pan. As I said before, I'm using a New Belgium 1554 Belgian Style Black Ale. Any dark beer would work great for this, so long as it's not too hoppy or bitter. Most cooks would use a dry red wine such a Bordeaux or Pinot Noir to deglaze the pan in a beef stew. While I do love a good red wine, this dish is being paired with beer tonight and thus will be made with beer. I find the beer to add a nice sweetness to the stew and certainly more flavor than if adding plain old water. If I had it on hand, I would also add some barley to give it a little extra sweetness and texture.

Add seasonings to taste. I don't usually measure seasonings or other ingredients when it comes to cooking, I just know what I like and add accordingly. The above measurements are just a guess. In this case I'm using basil, marjoram, paprika, fresh thyme, bay leaves, kosher salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. Cook down for a few minutes then add can of diced tomatoes and can of chicken broth. Let this simmer on medium-low for about 2 hours.

The beef, onions, garlic, tomatoes, beer, and chicken stock have been stewing for a little over two hours now and the meat is just starting to get tender. The fresh thyme is really coming out in the aroma and the paprika, which I don't normally put in stew, is adding a little extra zing to the flavor.

Next, peel and cube the potatoes and chop the carrots into circles. I'm using regular russet potatoes because that's what I like, but unpeeled Yukon Gold or red potatoes would be very good in this too. Add to stew and let cook for another 30 minutes or until desired tenderness of vegetables. The potatoes should add some starch to the gravy which will further increase it's thickness. Remove thyme stems and bay leaves.

After 30 minutes the sauce thickened considerably but I would like the potatoes to be a little softer, so I will let this go for another 10 minutes. The stew is done when the meat is fork tender and the sauce has thickened to the consistency of gravy. If the sauce seems to thick, a little bit of chicken stock or water can be added. Serve with cornbread or some other hearty bread. I also like to add a little bit of sour cream and shredded sharp cheddar cheese to my stew, but hey that's just me.

I'm pairing this meal with a soured red ale from the Italian microbrewery, Panil:

From the label:

"The dark, sour, barrel-aged beers native to the Netherlands and Belgium Flanders represent one of the oldest beer styles in the world. Barriquee is the only all natural, traditionally-made example you will find today, and it comes from, of all places, Italy. The deep earthy, sour character results from three months of maturation in cognac barrels from Bordeaux, followed by re-fermentation and further aging in the bottle. This unfiltered, unpasteurized, complex and delicious beer is the inspired work of Dr. Renzo Losi, whose Panil brewery makes many excellent natural beers in time-honored, classic styles."

My review of the beer:

Pours a dark reddish brown color with a small, bubbly light tan head that was gone quickly, falling to some medium sized bubbles and no lacing. Aroma is full of buttery oak, acidic, some notes of cherries, apple skins, light citrus, some mustiness, Belgian yeast, and a touch of vinegar. Flavor is dry and tart. Cherries are the most predominant of the fruit character, but it's a tart cherry flavor and yet not completely sour. A little bit of caramel and brown sugar lie deep in the back of the flavor profile, but it's there only momentarily until the dry, tannic tartness washes it away. Oak is not as noticeable on the tonuge as it is in the nose, but it is there, and adds a nice touch. Mouthfeel is a tad thin, on the medium-light side, and the warming alcohol is noticeable on the finish. Not as refreshing as most Flemish Red's I've had. It's definitely a sipper, especially at 8% ABV. This is pairing nicely with the beef stew I'm enjoying at the moment, as the acidity is cutting nicely across the savory beef, herbs, and spices.

A great, relaxing Sunday comes to an end with a big bowl of stew and a delicious beer. The stew is fantastic, with a perfect balance between sweet and spicy. The beef is perfectly cooked and literally falls apart when you chew it. This will feed me well for the next couple of days!