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Once upon a time I quit life. It was during college, which meant it was completely acceptable to throw your hands in the air and give up, even if only temporarily. And so I did. I put in my notice, rented a storage unit, couch surfed for a few months to save money (and because I had been kicked out of my apartment), and planned a backpacking trip through Europe with only an end destination in mind: St. James’s Gate for a pint of Guinness. Oh, my priorities back then. I knew nothing of German beerhalls, Trappist monastaries, or the wonder that is Cantillon. What I did know – the famous Irish Stout that’s available in just about every pub across the U.S.
Guinness was my gateway drug. It introduced me to a world of beers that I may have otherwise been unwilling to try. While I still kick myself that I missed out on so many incredible brews, I did have the time of my life.
College me at the top of the Guinness Brewery Tour.
St. Patrick’s Day is the one time of the year I return to my first beer love. And while I may not have an ounce of Irish blood in my veins, I did fall in love with the Irish countryside (and, for a brief while, an Irishman), all while drinking an excess of Guinness. It was great craic.
So here’s a not-so-Irish take on an Irish classic. It’s a recipe I return to time and time again as a result of its versatility. Here, it’s cooked until tender in a thick gravy and covered with puff pastry to create an easy to assemble meat pie. Other variations: add potatoes to create a hearty stew or barley for a satisfying soup – simply increase the stock level by a little to a lot. You may notice that in the picture below, there’s no Guinness. Oops? It just so happened that there was a six pack of Velvet Merlin in my refrigerator and it’s not St. Patrick’s Day just yet! An oatmeal stout is a satisfactory substitute, but this recipe really is better served with the classic. Besides, if you should happen to have any leftover, it makes a wonderful addition to Bloody Marys for the morning after.
Preheat oven to 350F. Remove puff pastry from freezer and follow package instructions to defrost.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and pepper.
Use paper towels to pat the beef until dry. Place in the bowl with flour and toss until fully coated.
Heat oil in an oven proof pot over high heat. Working in batches, add the beef and cook until well browned on each side. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Add onion, parsnips, and carrots with a pinch of salt (if there’s not enough fat leftover from the beef, add a bit more vegetable oil). Cook until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, garlic, and 2 tbs. water. Cook, scraping any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot, for a minute or two until the tomato paste turns brick read. Stir in broth, beer, beef, worcestershire sauce, peppercorns and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to oven.
Braise for quite awhile – about an hour and a half – until beef is tender. Stir in kale, replace lid, and cook an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
Increase oven temperature to 425F. Divide stew evenly into small ramekins or one large soufflé pan. Place in the refrigerator to cool down.
Gently roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Slice dough to fit the bowl with about an inch of border to hang over the side.
Whisk together egg with 1 tbs. water. Brush along the border of the dough, invert, and drape over stew, pressing the sides down to adhere.
Brush the pastry with remaining egg wash.
Bake until pastry puffs and turns golden brown, about 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 400F and bake an additional 5 minutes.