A hearty stew for the last taste of winter

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By Cathy Pollak for Oneforthetable.com

In March, I feel compelled to enjoy my final tastes of winter. The cold days are perfect matches for braising meats, chowders and simmering soups.

Winter stews are my perfect canvas for putting together some of my favorite ingredients, cooking them up, and transforming them into thick and rich savory blends of meat and vegetables. The bubbling pot warms my kitchen and even my house while the aromas whet my appetite for something good to come.

One of the best things about winter stews is the variety of root vegetables abundant this time of year. Peppery parsnips, crunchy carrots and potatoes in many sizes and colors are just a few of the choices available.

If a rustic looking winter stew is what you desire, dice your root vegetables into asymmetrical pieces. The variability in size and shape will give your meal a lot of visual appeal.

Beef Irish Stew

Serves 6-8.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 pounds stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces

7 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 cup red wine

1 cup Guinness stout

6 cups beef stock (or broth)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon dried thyme

4 bay leaves

2 tablespoons butter

2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 pound parsnips, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 cups carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Salt and pepper

Fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a heavy, large pot over medium-high heat. Add the beef stew meat and sauté until brown on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic cloves and sauté another minute.

Add beef stock, wine, Guinness, tomato paste, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaves. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.

In another large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add potatoes, parsnips, onion and carrots, sautéing until golden, about 15 minutes. Set aside until the stew has simmered 2 1/2 hours.

Add vegetables to beef stew and simmer uncovered until vegetables and beef are tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Mix cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water until combined. Add slowly to the stew stirring for 1 minute until thickened. Discard bay leaves and remove any fat that may have accumulated on top. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

This can be easily prepared in advance and kept refrigerated for up to three days.

(Cathy Pollak runs a vineyard and winery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and writes about food and wine at noblepig.com. One for the Table is Amy Ephron's online magazine that specializes in food, politics, and love. http://www.oneforthetable.com/.)

(c) 2014, ONE FOR THE TABLE. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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