As the temperature drop below freezing, kitchens everywhere are heating up with foods that bring warmth and comfort to frigid evenings. A thick and hearty stew may be just what the season calls for, so gather up the essential ingredients – savory beef, seasonal vegetables and of course your favorite brew and get into the kitchen and start cooking.
For a delicious twist on the typical stew, try braising your beef with beer for added flavor and tenderness.
Not familiar with braising? This cooking technique has been around since the 19th century, when stews like burgoo, bouillabaisse and gumbo became popular. Because braising gives even the toughest of meats tenderness and flavor – it’s the perfect way to make less expensive meats delicious. In today’s culinary arena, tougher cuts of meat such as brisket, shanks or short ribs are often simmered in a covered pot with beer in order to make the beef as tender as possible.
The key to braising lies in the heat, time and moisture used to cook the meat. When done properly, the connective tissue and collagen's in the meat break down and the flavors of the beef intermingle with the beer broth. Try using a stout or a dark beer to impart a sweet and malty flavor to the beef.
Here are a few tips to help get you started on your very own mouth-watering beef stew:
- Begin by seasoning the cut of meat with salt and pepper and lightly coating it with flour.
- Heat a small amount of oil in a large pot on medium-high heat. Sear or brown the meat on all sides to seal in the juices.
- Add about ½ cup of beer (dark beer or stout) and cover the pan so that steam is contained inside.
- Simmer on the stove-top or in the oven at 300 degrees until fork tender.
- Serve the meat, using the cooked beer as a sauce or gravy.
You can also use this technique to incorporate beer into other recipes, including chicken cacciatore, braised monkfish, Sheppard’s Pie, goulash and beef bourguignon – a traditional French beef stew. I recommend experimenting with different styles of beer to see which you like best with different types of meats.
Once you’ve beefed up your meat with the juicy flavor of your favorite beer, incorporate it into your winter stew.
- Add in your favorite seasonal vegetables – beans, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and root vegetables such as carrots, turnips or parsnips work well.
- Stew them with your newly braised beef in a beer reduction. You can start with one of my favorites, like a Stone Mill Pale Ale, or select one of your own.
Thick stews with hearty pieces of meat and vegetables make the perfect one-pot meal. Aside from being delicious, it also makes for easy clean up! So whether you’re spending a night alone by the fire or cooking for out-of-town guests, a savory and hearty beef and beer stew will be sure to warm up cold nights this winter.
Chef Brent Wertz
Director of Food & Beverage
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort