I have a friend named Kate. Once upon a time we were roommates in college. We met during our first semester and became fast friends thanks to our mutual love of good music, brutal sarcasm and general debauchery.
Kate is one of those friends who I rarely see, but we manage to stay in touch on an almost-everyday basis. And just about every day, Kate tells me about her Irish stew. Okay, maybe not every day. But enough to let me know that she makes the best damn Irish stew this side of the Atlantic. Or, so she says. I still haven’t tried it. HINT HINT, KATE.
Let me start by saying that Kate is Irish. Very Irish. Right down to her aryan features, affinity for whiskey and bright green shamrock tattoo. Kate takes her Irish stew very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that she was furious when I decided it was okay to make a minor (okay, maybe it was major) adjustment to the recipe. And me, being the friend that I am, found so much amusement in her dismay. But after my adjustments didn’t quite work out as planned, Kate was elated. Absolutely nothing has changed since college.
When I asked Kate to share her recipe, she told me that she doesn’t actually use a recipe, which is fairly typical for a dish such as this. So instead, she just barked orders at me via text, which is also pretty typical for a friendship such as ours.
Kate: Unfortunately you don’t have a shamrock carved into your back, so you’ll never quite be able to perfect Irish stew.
She’s kind of right.
Kate: Okay. You’ll need some stew meat. Carrots, lots of ’em. Potatoes, same. Big onion… those are your veggies. You’re allowed to add leeks if you want to. THAT’S IT.
Me: What kind of potatoes? Russet? Yukon Gold? No celery? What about flour? How do you thicken it?
Kate: Red potatoes, peeled. Definitely not russet. If you put celery in my stew, I’ll kill you. And no flour, get out of here with flour, UNNECESSARY IN THIS.
No celery. Noted. Still unclear on how it gets thick.
Kate: Brown the meat in a big pot, then cook the vegetables in another pan until translucent, then add them to the big pot.
Me: Do I have to cook the veggies separate if I’m only making a small batch?
Kate: I always do out of habit, you’d probably be fine otherwise, but FOLLOW THE RUBRIC DAMMIT.
Kate: Combine the vegetables and meat, then add some tomato paste, thyme, a bay leaf, a pinch of sugar, Worcestershire, beef stock and Guinness. Let it simmer at least two hours, but more is better. Always buy the six pack (or larger) of Guinness, because if you don’t drink it while you cook, it doesn’t count.
Me: Do I have to use Guinness or can I use another stout?
Kate: Sure, you could bastardize Irish stew by taking out the Guinness. You can make beef stew with lots of different beers. I cook with different beers all the time! What I’m trying to say is no. You cannot take the #%$*@&! Guinness out of Irish stew.
Me: Now, I didn’t buy beef broth, but I have this homemade chicken stock here, so I’m just going to use that instead.
Kate: No no no no. YOU CANNOT USE ANYTHING OTHER THAN BEEF BROTH. Might as well have said, “oh, I’ll just use Budweiser!” Like, just quit now. Seriously. My name is no longer related to this insanity.
Me: Too late. Womp womp.
Kate: Chicken stock in beef stew? NO NICOLE! Just, no. I can’t even explain how bad I want to slap you right now. Just straight across your face. Seriously. Baby powder in the palm, right in the face. In cold weather. I think I need to call you so I can actually yell at you.
Me: This is my stew and I’ll do what I want!
Kate: Last time I send an Italian mutt to do an Irish woman’s job.
Me: Dude, chill! It’s going to be FINE.
Kate was right. And it pains me to admit this, but she was so, so right. The stew turned out good. Really good! The potatoes released some starch to thicken it up just enough, and even though I added a little too much tomato paste (as you can see from its reddish hue), it had a really nice overall flavor. But Chaser and I both agreed it wasn’t, well… it just wasn’t “beef stewy enough.”
So without further adieu, here is Kate’s awesome Irish stew recipe in all its glory, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Just make sure you follow Kate’s
advice orders and use beef broth and Guinness, and only beef broth and Guinness. Also, don’t skip the parsley at the end, either. Kate doesn’t say to put parsley on top, but I thought it needed a bright pop of Kelly green to be a little more, ya know, festive. In addition to making the stew look a lot prettier, it brings a vibrancy to the dish that really freshens it up. I know Kate is rolling her eyes so hard at that line. But that’s exactly why we’re friends.
One Year Ago: Fresh Pressed Juice Two Ways
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 lbs chuck steak, cubed
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
- 3 medium carrots, sliced into coins
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 medium red skin potatoes, cut into large chunks*
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, divided (substitute 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 8 ounce bottles Guinness stout**
- 1 32 ounce carton of beef broth**
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- pinch of sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped, divided
- Pour the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over high heat. Season the meat with salt and pepper, then add to the pot in a single layer, working in batches if necessary. Allow the meat to brown really well on all sides, about 15 minutes, then remove from the pan.
- Lower the heat to medium, then add the butter, onion and carrots. Sauté for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for one minute more. Add the tomato paste and stir until the vegetables are coated. Continue cooking and stirring for about 5 minutes, then add the potatoes and cook for 2 minutes more.
- Add 1 teaspoon of thyme, the bay leaf, Guinness, beef broth, Worcestershire, sugar, and browned meat. Bring up to a boil, then lower the heat all the way and simmer until the stew has thickened slightly and the meat is falling apart, about 2-3 hours.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Stir in the remaining 1 teaspoon of thyme and half of the parsley.
- Ladle the stew into bowls and garnish with a sprinkling of parsley. Serve hot.
- *Kate says to peel the potatoes, but I don't. Mostly because I'm lazy, but also because I like the skins.
- **Don't use anything other than Guinness or beef broth, or Kate might actually hunt you down and slap you.