Monday, March 16, 2015

Irish Beef Pot Pie

Ya, so I am avoiding that whole corned beef and cabbage thing. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the meal. I love corned beef,  and love cabbage. I just don't follow the herd when it comes to so called traditional holiday food and certainly not corned beef and cabbage on St. Paddy's Day. In an homage to the Irish I would much rather crack open a Guinness and whip up a rich a delicious meat pie brimming with onions and mushrooms.

Spring in the Midwest is a weird weather situation. It might be warm and sunny one day, and 4 inches of snow falling the next. Those last lingering cold days are great for recipes like this. Slow simmered beef and vegetables in a rich gravy, topped with flaky pastry and baked to golden perfection, it warms the house and warms the soul.

Whoever thought to try cooking with Guinness is a genius. We're all familiar with the classical French technique of cooking with wine, but swapping the wine for a beer and you're venturing into new and uncharted territory. But honestly, this is territory you simply MUST explore. Dark beers, in my opinion, translate the best into cooking, but cook with what you like. 

Let's talk about this recipe a bit. This is one for those cold and crummy weather stay home days. You need to have plenty of time to cook the beef. I suppose you could cook it in the crockpot but for me there is nothing better than starting a pot in the Dutch oven and letting it slow simmer for a few hours and fragrance the whole house. A book, a blanket and a little music in the background and I can get up and check on the pot every once in a while. Sounds like a perfect lazy day to me. I like to use the leaner, cheaper cuts of meat for recipes like this. Round or chuck is perfect. Buy a roast or a big hunk of steak and trim and cube it yourself.

I chose not to add potatoes to this recipe and just bulk up on the root vegetables and mushrooms. The carrots are sweet by nature and go beautifully with the sugars and caramel notes in the beer. I chose red onion for it's bright onion bite and cremini mushrooms because I love their earthiness. While I was picking up mushrooms the store just happened to have some fresh oyster mushrooms as well so.... into the cart they went, and of course- into the pot! Herbes de Provence was a natural choice as well and was the perfect herbal note.

Pastry for this pie- now that's where I had more difficulty making a decision. I have made so much pastry over the years I can whip up a flaky perfect crust in my sleep......... but did I want to go that route or did I want to really make it special with puff pastry? Hmmmm............

Irish Beef Pot Pie

1 1/2 to 2 lbs lean boneless beef
cooking oil
12 oz bottle Guinness
1/4 cup Jameson Irish whiskey
1 tablespoon good quality beef base
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
1 tablespoon tomato paste
salt and pepper
1 package fresh cremini mushrooms
1 medium red onion
4-5 cloves garlic
1 pound carrots
pastry for one crust or frozen puff pastry

Trim the beef and cut into good sized cubes. In a shallow plate combine about half a cup of flour with salt and pepper to taste. 

Trim the stem ends and slice the mushrooms. I like to keep the slices pretty thick. Peel and cut the carrots into thick coins. I used baby carrots and cut them in quarters. Cut the onion into chunks, chop the garlic. 

Heat a Dutch oven over medium high heat. 

Add a tablespoon of oil to the pot and add the mushrooms. Cook and stir occasionally until the mushrooms soften and brown. Remove to a bowl. If additional oil is needed, add a tablespoon to the pot.

Dredge the beef cubes in the seasoned flour and brown in the hot oil. Do this in batches so the beef sears and doesn't steam. Add more oil as needed. Remove the cubes as they brown and put in the bowl with the mushrooms. 

Look at all that amazing flavor building up in the pot.
When all beef is browned add another tablespoon of oil to pot and add the onion, garlic, carrots and Herbes de Provence. I also add a couple grinds of black pepper as well. Cook and stir for a minute, then stir in the tomato paste. 

Deglaze the pot with the Guinness and stir in the beef base and whiskey. 

Add the beef and vegetables to the pot. Cover your pot and turn heat to low. Simmer for an hour or two, stirring once in a while.  

When the meat and vegetables are tender and sauce has thickened, crank up the heat in the oven to 400 degrees. If using traditional pastry, you will want to transfer the filling to a baking dish and cover with pastry. Flute the edges as desired, cut slits in the top to let steam escape. Brush with egg wash if you like and pop in the oven. Bake until deep golden brown, about 20-30 minutes.

If you decide to go with puff pastry, like I did, just grab a package of frozen puff pastry. We CAN make it ourselves but why the heck would we? Thaw according to package directions, cut the pastry into portions and bake as directed on package. It takes 15 minutes in the oven to get perfect squares of flaky pastry.

Spoon a serving of the meat mixture into a bowl and top with a portion of the baked pastry. Easy as....pie!

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