Boozin’ up the food…

Alright, so I love to cook.  My earliest memories are helping my mom in the kitchen, be it with dinner or with baking or what have you.  I didn’t always make the best food, as some of my friends can attest, but I’ve always loved it.  Second only to finding new things to cook is finding things to do with booze in my food.  Whiskey, beer, wine, tequila, they have all wound up in my cooking over the years.  Finding a nice, heavy stout for chili, with just a pinch of Irish whiskey to bring out the flavors.  Or a good white wine for risotto, or a good red to poach pears in.  Alcohol has a place in food, just as it has a place at the table.

My most recent culinary creation is beef stew.  I know right, you probably think of Dinty Moore from a can, heated up on a hot plate in your college dorm.  Or you don’t.  I think of my mom’s homemade beef stew, and my dad opening up a can.  When I think of beef stew though, I think of something warm, hearty and delicious, perfect for a chilly autumn or winter day.  Beef stew is also great to make in large batches and freeze, portion-friendly, for lunches or quick dinners.

Everybody does it differently, I’m sure.  I didn’t follow any recipe, though I did have a nice chat with my mother on what we like to put in stew.  And it was my mother who gave me the idea for beer.  Granted, she suggested Guinness.  Guinness is a very lovely stout, very easy to come by, but isn’t quite the flavor profile I want out of a stew.  I’m a fan of ales, usually the hoppier the better.  What I found though was absolutely delicious.  Kona Brewing Co. has a limited release beer called Pipeline Porter, brewed with Kona coffee.  A porter being close cousins with a stout, and liking coffee as much as I do, I figured I’d give it a crack.

Beer in hand, the next dilemma when planning stew is the cut of meat.  There is always a reserve portion of ‘stew meat’ from a cow.  Usually chuck or something, its the part of the cow that is toughest, and thus warrants being slow-braised to make it palatable.  Pardon my language, but I believe that to be horseshit.  Why not just get something nice?  Do you want your pot roast to be tough?  Your steak?  Hell no.  So I picked up a nice, well-marbled tri-tip roast.  That’s right, tri-tip.  Only the best for my stew.

So let us run over the ingredients here:

2 lb Tri-tip roast

3 cup carrot

3 cup celery

1 yellow onion

4 small Yukon Gold potatoes

1/2lb sliced Baby Bella mushrooms

6 cloves garlic (whole)

2 tbsp dried thyme

1 tbsp dried oregano

1 bottle Pipeline Porter

48oz Organic Beef Stock

Salt & Pepper to taste

So first things first, cube your beef.  I made nice bite-size chunks out of it, then dredged it in a combo of AP flour, salt and pepper.  Dredging, for those who haven’t heard the word in this context, is when you coat your meat in the flour mixture before browning.  Gives it a nice crispness, a little extra flavor and is great to help thicken a stew.  So right, cube your beef, dredge it, then brown it lightly in a saute pan.  Throw it in your crockpot.  Did I mention that this is a crockpot recipe?  Don’t own a crockpot?  You can find a workable one for $20 at Target.  You definitely want to  buy one, and not just for this recipe.

Where were we?  Right.  Brown your beef, chuck it in the crockpot.  Now we can start on the veggies.  The onion, you should slice into 1/4in strips.  I like them cut lengthwise for appearance, but you can dice them if you’d like.  Add a little more oil to your beef pan (don’t clean it) and saute your onions until they start to color a little.  They’ll soak up that flavor from the beef, to help put back into the stew.

Next we have carrots, celery and potatoes.  Carrots, onion and celery are stew and soup essentials.  I like getting baby carrots and slicing them into 1/4in or 1/8in rounds.  Celery can be chopped to a similar size.  I used Yukon Gold potatoes, with a medium dice.  And I was super lazy and bought pre-sliced mushrooms, of the Baby Bella variety.  Add all your veggies into the pot.  Now you have a great huge pile of veggies and meat.  Add your herbs (thyme and oregano), and open two bottles of beer.  Pour one bottle of beer into the crockpot.  The other is for you to drink.  Add your beef stock on top of that.  Now you’re done.

No really, that’s it.  Turn your crockpot on low, cover it and let it go.  If you want to thicken it some, mix cornstarch with cold water until smooth.  I added about a cup of the cornstarch mixture.  And you can just leave it alone.  I let my stew cook for something like 12 hours covered on low, and it turned out beautifully.  I even took pictures for you.

So all total, the prep time is about a 1/2 to 1 hour dependent on how quick you are with a knife, whether you’re trying to cook something else at the same time, whether you have children, pets or spouses underfoot, etc…

I’m serving mine with some honey cornbread, to provide a sweet counterpoint to the savory stew.  Hope you enjoyed this, and if you attempt it, let me know how it turned out.