Friday, September 26, 2008

Guinness Beef Stew

Serves 6 to 8

Make sure to buy large chunks of stew meat. Trim meat of excess fat, as necessary, and cut into 11/2-inch pieces. Be gentle when stirring in the flour in step 3-the fork-tender beef will fall apart if stirred too aggressively.

4 pounds boneless beef chuck stew meat
Table salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions , chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups Guinness Draught
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate , chopped
2 bay leaves
5 carrots , peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound parsnips , peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes , scrubbed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Pat beef dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook half of beef until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker insert and repeat with additional 2 teaspoons oil and remaining beef.

2. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil, onions, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to skillet and cook until onions are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add broth, 1 1/4 cups stout, sugar, thyme, chocolate, and bay leaves and bring to boil, using wooden spoon to scrape up browned bits. Transfer to slow cooker insert.

3. Add carrots, parsnips, and potatoes to slow cooker insert. Cover and cook on low until meat is tender, 9 to 10 hours (or cook on high for 6 to 7 hours). Set slow cooker to high. Whisk flour and remaining 1/4 cup beer until smooth, then stir mixture into slow cooker. Cook, covered, until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Stir in parsley, season with salt and pepper, and discard bay leaf. Serve.

Make Ahead: You can prepare the recipe through step 2 the night before the ingredients go into the slow cooker. Refrigerate the browned beef and the onion mixture in separate containers. In the morning, transfer the beef and the onion mixture to the slow cooker and proceed with step 3.

Choosing the Right Beer

While shopping for our Guinness Beef Stew recipe, we were surprised to find two options in the beer aisle: Guinness Extra Stout and Guinness Draught. Straight from the bottle, both beers have their merits. But after nine hours in the slow cooker, Guinness Draught was the clear winner. Tasters noticed the "clean, toasted taste" of the stew made with Guinness Draught, while the stew made with Guinness Extra Stout, although still acceptable, was noted for having a slightly "tannic, bitter" aftertaste.

SHOP CAREFULLY: When cooking, choose the mellower Guinness Draught rather than Guinness Extra Stout.

STEP BY STEP

Chocolate to the Rescue

We found that chocolate emphasized the rich flavor in Guinness without adding any bitterness. But not all chocolate worked in our recipe. Unsweetened chocolate was much too astringent and imparted chalkiness to the stew. Semisweet chocolate was too sweet, making the stew taste like a "meaty candy bar." Bittersweet chocolate was the perfect compromise.

A BITTERSWEET SOLUTION: Bittersweet chocolate enhances the flavor of the beer without adding any harsh notes.

from Cook's Illustrated e-mail

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