This dish is classic British pub fare at its best. I always have a secret chuckle with myself when I prepare a hearty meat and potato dish like this because I grew up in a family that hardly ever had meat and potato dinners. Nope. My family was more of a tofu and zucchini stir-fry family. Though my mom did occasionally whip up an incredible Boeuf Bourguignon (which is this dish’s elegant French cousin, similar in many ways but using red wine instead of beer). But there’s something incredibly comforting about a plate of this stew served on top of a velvety heap of mashed potatoes. I can think of nothing I’d rather eat on a cold winter day. The stout loses its strong “beer taste” and melds into a richly flavorful sauce, deeply satisfying and irresistible.
You may have noticed there aren’t too many meat recipes on this blog. It’s not because I’m vegetarian, in fact, I love meat! But I’m extremely choosy about what kind of meat I eat, where it comes from, how it was raised, and what impact it’s had on the environment. So I only eat meat if I can find exactly the kind I’m looking for, which invariably means I end up eating it only occasionally. Which is fine by me, especially when I think of Michael Pollan’s famous advice to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Basically, what works for me is eating a diversified, balanced diet, including meat. However, I do believe that reducing one’s meat consumption and being more selective about where it comes from is crucial. It’s important to realize that not all meat is created equal. Choosing meat that is raised outside on small farms without the use of hormones or antibiotics and raised on pasture and non-GMO feed, is healthier, has a smaller environmental footprint, and supports your local economy.
When it comes to beef, I only eat beef that is 100% grass-fed. Cows are natural herbivores and they are not meant to consume grains. Aside from respecting what a cow’s body was meant to eat, there are two major advantages to eating grass-fed beef. The first is that many studies show grass-fed beef is healthier for us. It’s higher in Omega 3, CLA, vitamins and antioxidants compared to grain-fed beef. The other reason is that conventional grain-fed meat produced in concentrated feedlots has a devastating impact on the environment, from contributing to climate change, to water and air pollution. Although it’s contested by some, grass-fed beef has been found to have a low carbon footprint when you factor into the equation the carbon sequestration that occurs as a result of well-managed pastures. This wonderful video from Lexicon of Sustainability explains it well:
So if you can, do find a farmer near you who grows delicious grass-fed beef. And then make this recipe. I promise you’ll enjoy it!
Beef and Stout Stew Over Mashed Potatoes
- For the Stew:
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 1/2 pound grass-fed stewing beef, ideally pre-cut into medium chunks
- 1 medium-large onion, chopped
- 2 large cloves chopped garlic
- 5 carrots, chopped in medium chunks
- 1 pound cremini or white button mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 12-oz bottle of dark stout (such as Guinness)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups vegetable or meat stock (I use homemade beef bone broth)
- 2 whole sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dry thyme)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp black pepper
- For the Mashed Potatoes:
- 2 pounds good mashing potatoes, preferably Russets or Yukon Gold
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- About 1 cup milk or cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium-sized heavy-bottomed ovenproof pot such as a Dutch Oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Brown the meat in the oil, in small batches. (Pat the meat dry with paper towel first, otherwise it will not brown well). Once the meat is deeply browned (about 5 minutes on each side), remove it from the pot and put it aside.
- In the same pot that the meat browned in, add the chopped onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and carrots, cooking for about 6 minutes or until they begin to brown. If you need to, add a little glug of oil. Add the flour, salt, and pepper and stir it in well.
- In a little bowl, stir some of the stock into the tomato paste, to dissolve it a bit. Pour the liquified tomato paste along with the rest of the stock into the pot. Add the remaining ingredients: beer, thyme sprigs, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the meat and juices back into the pot as well. Bring the whole thing to a simmer, and then place the lid on the pot and put it in a 325F oven for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender and the sauce thickened. Taste the stew and season with a little more salt and pepper if needed.
- Shortly before the stew comes out of the oven, prepare the mashed potatoes. Peel, rinse, and chop the potatoes into quarters. Cover by 2 inches in a large pot of water and cook over medium-high heat for about 20 to 30 minutes, until they're very tender and easily pierced with a fork. Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot, placing it over low heat. Add the milk and butter and using a potato masher, mash the potatoes until they're creamy. If needed, add a little more milk or cream to get the consistency you like. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Let the stew cool and settle for a few minutes, then ladle generously on top of a plate mashed potatoes.
Yield: 4 servings
Aube Giroux is a food writer and filmmaker who shares her love of cooking on her farm-to-table blog, Kitchen Vignettes.
Aube is a passionate organic gardener and home cook who likes to share the stories of how food gets to our dinner plates. Her work has been shown on television and at international film festivals. Her web series was nominated for a 2014 James Beard Award. In 2012, she was the recipient of Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog award in the video category.