Guinness Beef Shepherd’s Pie
“My number one choice would be Guinness. My number two choice would be Guinness. My number three choice would have to be Guinness.” -Peter O’Toole on his favorite Irish “food.”
This kind of started with leftover pot roast. No, wait a second. Actually, it started about four years ago on one of our dinner dates at the pub. Adam had ordered their Guinness Beef (served in a darling wee bread bowl). I had the Shepherd’s Pie. While we were eating and nibbling at each other’s plates, we bounced around the idea of developing recipes for these dishes, since they’re both so good – classic pub grub worthy of The Docket. I filed them under Recipes to Revisit Soon, we finished our romantic tête-à-tête and headed home.
Fast track to the pot roast. I wanted a fresh spin on the leftover roast beef. So, for this re-do, I decided to take the remaining meat, chop it into smallish pieces, add some more veggies, top it with a garlicky mashed potato lid and bake it to a crunchy crust. Somewhat kin to a shepherd’s or cottage pie – both are cooked with ground or diced meat, traditionally lamb in shepherd’s pie and beef in cottage pie; mixed in with gravy, sometimes vegetables and topped with mashed potatoes and baked until bubbling and lightly browned. Oh, I was on to something. The Taste Tester concurred, then rattled off his thoughts (more “stewy,” cheddar in the potatoes) for Round Two.
Another date night at the pub. Dinner choices were the same, but this time, reversed. I had the Guinness Beef (and that bread bowl!) and Adam ordered the pie. The conversation turned into a recipe jam session and I said, “Hey! What about a Guinness Beef Shepherd’s Pie?” Adam liked that idea immensely and I have to say, I thought that it was quite clever. I have my moments, people! Back in the PPM test kitchen, I took lean stew beef and added onions, carrots, mushrooms and peas. But, seriously, let’s get down to Guinness – it’s all about Ireland’s famous black stout in this recipe. Slow simmered in its liquid assets and roasted until meltingly tender and baby, you got a stew going! While that cooked (and made the entire house smell fabulous), I whipped up some fluffy, garlicky, cheddar mashed potatoes to go on top. Casseroled then baked until golden brown. Oh, that thick, meaty sauce! Such deep-bodied flavor from Dublin’s finest.
God bless the Irish.
Now, the choice is yours. You can go the distance and do the potato-topped casserole thing (or just keep the recipe for a rockin’ side dish). Or you can stop after the braise and dinner’s done. Totally up to you. It’s amazing with a capital A either way, I promise. Happy St. Paddy’s Day, everyone!
- 2-1/2 pounds boneless stewing beef, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more, as needed
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 4 ounces button mushrooms, stems removed and halved
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- one (12-ounce) bottle Guinness – no foam
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs, tied with string
- 1 recipe mashed potatoes
- 1 cup shredded aged cheddar, plus more for the top
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
- Position the oven rack in the middle and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pat the beef dry. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and pepper. Add the beef and toss well to lightly coat all the pieces. In a Dutch oven or large, ovenproof heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high. You want it hot, but not smoking. Working in three batches (so the meat will brown, not steam), sear the meat, stirring occasionally until well-browned, about 5 minutes per batch; add the extra tablespoon of oil between batches, as needed (I used two extra tablespoons total). Transfer the browned meat to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add ½ of the beef stock, onions, garlic, mushrooms and carrots. Season with a little more salt and pepper and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes; add the tomato paste, remaining stock, Guinness, Worcestershire and thyme. Add the beef, along with any juices in the bowl. Bring to a rapid simmer, cover and transfer to the oven.
- Braise until the beef is very tender and the sauce has reduced, about 1-1/2 hours.
- Meanwhile, make the mashed potatoes, if using. Stir in the cheese and garlic powder to the potatoes.
- Remove the pot from the oven. Fish out the thyme and discard; add in the peas. Place the pot of stew on the stove over medium heat. Add the cornstarch slurry, bring to a boil and cook until nicely thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and let cool slightly if using the potato topping.
- Turn the oven up to 400 degrees. Spread the stew into a casserole dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal and to prevent the filling from bubbling up (some will but that’s okay). Smooth with a rubber spatula and make decorative peaks, if desired. Sprinkle a little cheese on top. Place the dish on a large rimmed baking sheet and bake until the potatoes just begin to brown and the cheese melts, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Planning: Guinness produces a thick head when poured – chilling the bottle helps reduce the foam. You can make the stew a day in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Make the potato topping and bake as directed. Plus, this gutsy stew tastes even better a day or two after it’s made. But it won’t last that long, I assure you.
Product Purity: I use Kitchen Basics all-natural beef stock. Other brands add MSG. Choose an organic Worcestershire sauce, like Annie’s, since most national brands add high fructose corn syrup. Buy a really nice aged cheddar that you shred yourself.
Presentation: There are various ways to serve this dish – you can go family-style with a casserole, ladle some in individual crocks for single-servings or serve it in bread bowls for a big wow factor. Guinness is the perfect drink for your St. Patrick’s Day celebration or anytime you serve this stew.
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