A touch of beer ads flavor to hearty stew
Oregon blessed with plethora of great micro-brews
Our experience of frequent dining at The Brewer’s Art in Baltimore and re-creation of their Shellfish and Potatoes Steamed in Belgian-style Ale inspired me to delve further into Flemish cooking with beer.
What better place than Oregon to explore cooking with beer as well as wine. We are home to some of the finest pinot noir and pinot gris vineyards as well as a plethora of excellent micro-breweries, many of which pay homage to the mother country of beer with various expressions of that style of brewing.
A beef stew appears on the tables in many cultures and countries. France has “boeuf bourguignon” as well as “daube de boeuf Provençal.”
Belgium has “vlaamse stovery” or “les carbonades Flamandes.”
Mexico and the Southwest have “carne guisada” which translates as “meat in gravy.”
In Ireland it’s called, of all things, Irish stew and more times than not, it contains a liberal glug of Guinness Stout.
Here in the U.S., we have, well, beef stew and, being as we are the self-proclaimed melting pot of the world, we often make it any way we wish.
William Ritter of Willing to Cook Personal Chef Service is my go-to guy for all things beer. He steered me to Wreck the Halls holiday brew from Full Sail Brewery in Mt. Hood, Oregon.
Serves 4 – 6
2 pounds boneless beef stew meat cut into 2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, more as needed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
4-6 medium-size Yukon gold potatoes, cut into large bite-sized pieces
2 large carrots cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red bell pepper cut into medium-sized dice
1 22 ounce bottle of Belgian-style ale or beer, more if needed
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1×4-inch orange peel without the pith
1½ tablespoons marionberry or blackberry preserves (or brown sugar)
1 tablespoon cider or red wine vinegar
Fresh Italian parsley for garnish
Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper then dredge in the flour, shaking off excess.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Don’t let your eyes stray; burned butter means you will need to clean the pan and start over.
Working in batches, add beef cubes to the pan and sauté until browned on all sides. Do not crowd the pan. Add more butter as needed (I substitute vegetable oil for some of the butter).
Remove the browned beef cubes to a Dutch oven large enough to hold all your ingredients.
Throughout the browning process, keep a watchful eye and be prepared to adjust your heat as needed to avoid any burning. (Removing the pan from the heat when adding more butter or oil is a good plan.)
Add more butter/oil to the pan and slowly brown the onions. Turn the onions but not too often. You want them to slowly brown.
When the onions are just right, add them to the beef cubes and deglaze the pan with the beer, scraping the bottom to loosen those browned bits of flavor.
Add the beer to the Dutch oven along with the tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, orange peel and Worcestershire.
Simmer the mixture, covered, over low heat until the meat is very tender, about 1½-2 hours.
Add the potatoes and carrots in the last hour of cooking.
Add the red bell pepper during the final 15-20 minutes (timed solely to preserve the brilliant red color).
Add the red currant jelly (or sugar) and the vinegar at the very end. Add the garnish and serve.
Just as tradition suggests that one drink the same wine with which you cook coq au vin, serving the same brew that’s in your stew would be excellent. Wreck the Halls is one of those brews that will not appeal to those whose beer tastes lean to the lighter or lager styles. However, it does meld beautifully with the other ingredients and assumes a major but complementary flavor layer in the stew. If light or lager is your taste, one of the Belgian-style lambic beers flavored with fruit would be delicious. The Belgian fruit lambics are not difficult to find, as well as domestic lambic-style brews. Look for sour cherry, peach and raspberry. My mind was dreaming about these when we were enjoying this dish.