Celebrate St. Patrick's Day with an Irish Rebel Stew

Before I begin, allow me to offer a wee disclaimer: I’m not Irish. Not even a little bit. But I did go to Notre Dame, have never met an Irishman I haven’t liked, and love drinking holidays, which, when you think about it, is basically any holiday if you want it to be.

I also like holiday foods and the fact that my kids are still young enough to get swept up in my concocted celebrations and thereby more likely to try new things to eat. This past Mardi Gras, I made a lovely jambalaya for my family and since it was food for a fest, my kids gobbled it up. Had I made jambalaya on a random Tuesday night, you’d better believe I would still be eating the leftovers.

I was hoping to lure them into new terrain again with an Irish beef stew in honor of St. Patrick and all his hard work driving the snakes out of Ireland. My kids are enchanted by this story and I am certainly not above claiming that St. Patrick ate this very stew to keep up his snake wrangling strength.

I chose this recipe because it combines two things I love: beer and beef. I also fancied the name - Irish Rebel Stew. Then when I read that you aren’t supposed to peel the carrots or potatoes, I did a little jig and the deal was sealed. Of course those Irish rebels weren’t inclined to peel the vegetables! How absurd!

Irish Rebel Stew is a hearty, rustic stew, and I’m sure it didn’t hurt that instead of the chuck roast called for in the recipe, I went to Clancey's and bought two beautiful short ribs from Thousand Hlls Cattle Company and a gorgeous aged beef shank from their steer at Hill and Vale Farms. The mixture of meats gave the stew even more character and complexity. I plan to remember this trick!

The potatoes make the soup thick and filling and are basically there to soak up the broth, which is silky, savory and, in a word: divine. I have never cooked with Guinness before, and now I may never stop because it added a nutty, earthy depth that makes this stew taste as dark and mysterious as a moonless night on a windswept Irish moor.

Just the thing to fill the bellies of Irish rebels, snake fighting saints and just about any one else, Irish or not! May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light, May good luck pursue you each morning and night.

Irish Rebel Stew – adapted from Guinness Recipes

2.5 lbs local grass-fed beef (chuck roast) and/or lamb (shoulder) - the tougher, fattier cuts of meat are fine, as they will become tender through long cooking.
 (I used two short ribs and a beef shank.)

4-6 medium potatoes (about 2.5 lbs)

4-6 large carrots (about 1 lb)

3 Tbsp bacon fat, lard,
 or oil

2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

salt to taste

1 tsp coarse black pepper

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

1/4 tsp tarragon

1/4 tsp sweet paprika

1/4 tsp thyme

2 bay leaves

1 tsp gumbo file (I didn’t have this, so I omitted it, but it is used as a thickener in Cajun and Creole cooking and is derived from the sassafras leaf.)

1 bottle Guinness

1/4 cup flour

  1. Cut the meat into large chunks (about 1.5 or 2 inches on a side) and salt liberally. Put flour in a bowl, add the meat, and toss until coated. Do not bother to shake off excess flour.
  2. In a deep cast-iron stewpot, heat bacon fat on high until it sputters when you drip water on it. For those of you who can't bear using animal fat, 2 Tbsp of your favorite oil should work fine.
  3. When hot, drop meat into stewpot and brown thoroughly on high heat. Be attentive here and stir the meat often until all sides are browned.
  4. Add 1 cup of the Guinness and the Worcestershire sauce. Let it simmer a couple minutes until flavor and aroma have developed, scraping any brown bits up from the pan bottom and sides.
  5. Add 1 cup water, herbs and spices (except file), and remaining Guinness. Let simmer on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes. I let everything cool at this point and refrigerated the pot overnight. I have never made a stew that didn’t benefit from more time. The next afternoon, I brought the stew back to a simmer and proceeded.
  6. While it simmers, wash potatoes and cut into large chunks (perhaps 6 chunks per potato, and yes they really should be that big). And don't peel them - it's sacrilegious. Wash (don't peel) the carrots, and cut them into long pieces (2 inches or so).
  7. Add potatoes and carrots to stew. Add enough water to almost cover everything, cover and cook over medium heat for at least an hour, preferably two. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking or burning. When you stir, use a fork. Break a few of the potatoes up as you do, mixing them back into the broth. This will result in a much thicker, heartier stew. You may also adjust the thickness to your preference with water or flour, depending on how you like it.
  8. About 15 minutes before serving, add 1/2 tsp of the gumbo file, turn off heat and let the stew stand to thicken (don't worry, the cast iron pot will keep it plenty warm). The file is a good thickener, so if your stew is too thin, add the full teaspoon.
  9. Serve with Guinness, bread (for sopping), and plenty of salt. Seal and refrigerate any uneaten stew. To reheat, add a little water and simmer until thoroughly warmed. This stew loses absolutely nothing by being around for a couple of days.



Gabriela Lambert is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. You can also read more of her writing on her blog