There’s a saying: “Everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.” Or, to be more precise, nobody turns down an excuse to drink lots of Guinness and whisky every March 17.
That’s why, at this very moment, Irish pubs across the nation are gearing up for their busiest day of the year. Though it’s a little sad to see a holiday meant to celebrate a culture be reduced to an excuse to get drunk, let’s be honest: Pretty much all holidays are an excuse for humans to get drunk. Think wine at Thanksgiving, eggnog at Christmas, beer on 4th of July. But brush away the booze of St. Paddy’s Day celebrations in America — and Cinco de Mayo too — and you see that at the heart of it all is a love for one of the many immigrant cultures that make America great.
So instead of feeling cynical about all the supermarket ads for Guinness and corned beef this time of year, I feel comfort. After all, it wasn’t that long ago when Irish immigrants were vilified — and worse — in this country. It gives me hope that some day we’ll celebrate other immigrant communities with similar fanfare, rather than use them as scapegoats for society’s flaws and our politicians’ mistakes.
At least that’s what I’ll be thinking about this St. Patrick’s Day, as I pay homage to Irish cuisine and culture with this rich beef stew. It has a full can of Guinness, naturally, but I also load it up with a heap of healthy root vegetables. There are potatoes, of course, and carrots too. But I also toss in some turnips and rutabagas, often called neeps and swedes in that part of the world, because they’re brassicas — meaning they’re full of the same nutrient-dense goodness as broccoli. I think the Irish grannies would approve.
I like to roast the vegetables separately, because it allows them to develop extra flavor on their own. Plus, it it helps them retain their texture instead of being boiled to mush.
I have another trick too. I add tomato paste and balsamic vinegar to offset the mild bitterness of the stout. Sure, these ingredients are more traditionally Italian than Irish, but their acidity and sweetness is all it takes to round out the flavors and bring everything into harmony.
It’s a successful blending of cultures all in one pot — something we could use a lot more of in this world.
Guinness Beef and Roasted Root Vegetable Stew
Makes 6 to 8 servings
Guinness stout adds incredible depth to this rich and beefy stew, but since it’s beer, it also adds bitter notes. To offset them and bring the stew into harmony, I add a little acidity and sweetness from tomato paste and balsamic vinegar. I also roast the vegetables separately and add them to the stew toward the end. Roasting allows them to develop their own deeply caramelized flavor notes, and they keep their texture better too.
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 (14.9-oz) can Guinness draught beer
5 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
Bouquet garni: 1/4 bunch fresh thyme and handful of parsley stems tied together with kitchen twine
Roasted root vegetables:
5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch-long logs
2 yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large turnip, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Chopped fresh parsley or thyme, for garnish
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pot, brown the meat on all sides, allowing it to sear for 1 to 2 minutes per side until well browned and the meat loosens easily from the pot. Add more oil if necessary. As the meat finishes browning, transfer to a plate.
Add the onions and carrots and saute, stirring to scrape up the browned bits, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute more. Add the tomato paste, stirring to coat the vegetables, and allow to cook for about 2 minutes until tomato paste looks slightly darker. Add the Guinness and stir to scrape up the browned bits. Simmer for about 1 minute. Stir in the broth, balsamic vinegar, bay leaves and bouquet garni. Add the meat back to the pot.
Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, and cook for 2 hours. Remove the cover and continue cooking 1 hour more, until meat is very tender and the liquid is a bit more concentrated.
Meanwhile, as the stew finishes its last hour of cooking, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the root vegetables with a couple tablespoons of olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper and toss again.
Arrange the vegetables in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until tender and browned, about 25 to 30 minutes. Add the roasted vegetables to the stew.
Combine the flour and olive oil in a medium bowl to make a paste. Whisk in a cup or two of the hot stew liquid, then pour this mixture into the pot. Allow to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
Ladle the stew into bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley or thyme, and serve.