Now here’s something to stout (oops, shout) about – and just in time for St. Patty’s Day! This recipe harks from my James Beard-nominated column in Sauce magazine, from the article where I put two culinary giants – food scientist Harold McGee and doyenne of French cooking Madeleine Kamman – to a braising test. Madeleine came out on top with the results of her inverted foil lid-technique putting McGee’s ultra-low temperature braise to shame. Here, I’ve taken Madeleine’s lead, and I think you’ll be happy with the melt-in-the-mouth outcome – not to mention the richness of the Irish stout sauce.
Yield: About 12 (8-ounce) servings
Prep Talk: This dish can be made a few days ahead. Store tightly covered in the fridge; then re-heat on the stove top or in a 350ºF oven. Alternatively. freeze up to 1 month, thaw, and re-heat as just described.
- 6 to 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 6 onions (about 8 ounces each), peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
- 1 1/4 pounds small crimini or button mushrooms, stems trimmed and halved
- 3 pounds beef round or chuck, trimmed of excess gristle and fat and cut into bite-size pieces (2 1/2 to 3 pounds trimmed)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups beef stock, warmed
- 2 tablespoons mild molasses
- 2 cups Guinness Stout or other dark beer, room temperature
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 1 bouquet garni (2 bay leaves, 2 to 3 sprigs fresh parsley, and 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with twine)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh marjoram
1 | Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325ºF.
2 | Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a very large skillet. Add the onions and sauté until soft and caramelized. Stir regularly to prevent burning and be patient; this step may take 30 minutes or more due to the quantity of onions. Transfer the onions to a bowl and set aside.
3 | Add another 2 tablespoons olive oil to the skillet and return to medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté about 10 minutes or until they have exuded much of their moisture. Combine with the onions.
4 | Add another 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and place over medium-high to high heat. When the oil sizzles at the drop of water, add the beef. Sear well on all sides, turning often to promote even browning. Transfer the beef to a separate bowl and set aside.
5 | Turn the heat to medium. Add the flour to the remaining fat in the pan and cook, whisking constantly, until lightly browned. (If your meat is lean, you may need to add another 2 tablespoons oil to the pan before adding the flour.) Gradually add the warm stock to the roux (oil-flour mixture), whisking all the while to prevent lumps from forming. Add the molasses and beer and stir well. Increase the heat to medium-high, bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook until somewhat thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes. Season the broth with salt and pepper.
6 | Layer the reserved mushrooms and onions alternately with the beef in a heavy ovenproof pot (6- to 7-quart capacity) with a lid. Lightly season each layer with salt and pepper. Pour in the reserved broth and add the garlic cloves and bouquet garni.
7 | Fit an “inverted foil lid” over the top of the meat (that is, press a piece of foil directly against the meat and up the inner sides of the pot); then cover the pot tightly with its own lid. Bake about 2 hours, stirring once mid-process. The braise is done when a skewer passes easily through the meat with no resistance.
8 | Remove the bouquet garni. Add the chopped marjoram and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately with boiled potatoes or egg noodles, or all by its yummy self. (If the sauce looks loose, make a flour slurry by gradually whisking 1 cup hot sauce into 1 to 2 tablespoons flour. Stir the slurry into the braise and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and cook just until the sauce has thickened.)