Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wheat Ale Beef Stew!!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of a new brewery in upstate New York:  Westtown Brew Works. My krazee kuzins are friends with the owner (it's always good to have friends in high places) and they were nice enough to extend the invitation to me. Westtown Brew Works is a farm brewery, meaning that they grow their own hops. Along with using their own hops, they acquire the remaining ingredients from other farms in the region. Everything is local. You've heard of farm to table, well this is farm to pint glass. The beers are fresh, the flavors are robus and of course it didn't take too long for me to get inspired to create a gameday dish with one of their wheat ales (Farmhand Wheat Ale). As we all know, everything tastes better with beer on gameday, so I came up with a Wheat Ale Beef Stew. The heartiness of the ale will add a richness to the stew gravy. This is going to be perfect to serve to the gang on Sunday.

Beef stew takes a little while to prepare and it's done in stages, but with a little patience, your efforts will be rewarded. Brown the meat in batches. Don't crowd the pan. Once the meat's browned, remove the meat to a plate or bowl and then brown the veggies in the same pan. You'll notice a lot of browning collecting in the pan. That's good. That's all added flavor. You want to sautee the veggies until they get a little golden and then add tomato paste and let that cook through. Once you get to that point, add the beer and scrape up all those browned bits because that's the good stuff. Once you do that, bring it to a low boil, and let it reduce down to almost nothing. Return the meat and juices to the pan and add beef stock. Don't completely submerge the meat in the stock. You want about an inch of the meat showing. Bring it to a boil, add an herb/spice sachet and reduce to a simmer. After an hour, add the carrots and potatoes. Continue to simmer for another hour. Begin to check the meat at that point. You want the meat to be tender and easy to cut with a fork. Once it gets to that stage, it's done. At that point, add the vinegar and stir through. I like the vinegar because it brightens the flavors. I don't add any flour to the stew because the russett potatoes are starchy enough to naturally thicken the gravy. If you feel you want the gravy even thicker, you can add a slurry of flour or arrowroot  and water to thicken it at the end.

One of the nice things about a stew (or any braise for that matter) is that it tastes better the next day. So if you have the time, get this going the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight to let all the flavors intensify. Another nice thing about fridging it overnight  is that the fat will come to the top and harden, so you can remove it before you reheat it and you can get rid of all that unwanted fat.

Wheat Ale Beef Stew
(serves 4-6)

4 lbs chuck roast cut into bite-sized cubes
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 celery stalk, minced                                                    
1 small carrot, minced
1 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp Worchestershire Sauce
2 cups amber wheat ale
32 oz low-sodium beef stock or beef broth
2 large russet potatoes, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 large carrot, cut into small pieces
Sachet: 1 thyme stem, 1 large garlic clove, 5 dried juniper berries, 8 black peppercorns crushed, small handful of fresh parsley (wrapped in cheesecloth)
1 tbs red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste


1. In a medium-sized dutch oven, on medium heat, brown the meat on all sides (do not cook through) and remove to a bowl.

2. Sautee the onion, celery & carrot until golden brown.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook through (about 3 minutes).

4. Add Worchestershire Sauce and the wheat ale. Bring to a boil and let reduce down until the vegetables are visible.

5.  Return the meat and any collected juices to the pan and add enough beef stock to just below the top of the meat. You don't want to completely submerge the meat. Bring back to a boil, add the sachet, then reduce to a low simmer. This will simmer for 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally.

6.  After 1 hour, add the carrots and potatoes.

7.  Start checking the meat after 2 hours. Once the meat is tender and easy to cut with a fork, it's done.

8.  Taste for seasoning, adjust and add the red wine vinegar. Stir through.

You can keep the stew warm in a crock pot or buffet server and let your guests help themselves throughout the day. I pretty much guarantee that you won't have any leftovers. Hope you give it a try!

Join me back here next Wednesday for more gameday grub inspiration!

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