Monday, March 14, 2011

Steak and Guinness Pie

It was a rainy weekend in London which often spells an afternoon at the museum to me. Amazingly, after all of my years in London, I had never been to the British Museum. The typical Saturday crowds and tour groups were there, but the vastness of this museum filled with antiquities and artifacts handles it well. The main attraction was the Rosetta Stone. The onlookers were about 12 deep so getting a nice front and center view took some time, but it was well worth it. This stone tablet from 196 BC holds the key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphics. Seeing such history puts so much in perspective. My friends and I had hardly ticked all of the boxes of what we wanted to see, even though we stayed until closing. How fun it might have been to be in the museum all night long with nary a soul except a few mummies. The Science Museum in Boston has sleepovers for kids among the dinosaurs. But we were in London now and needed to make our way back through the mist and rain to the hotel. By the time we got back it was definitely dinner time, and we all agreed that hearty pub food sounded pretty appealing. Off to the Hereford Arms we went and the group of 5 of us soon settled into its well worn banquettes in a cozy corner. Without hesitation 3 of us ordered Steak and Ale Pie. My eyes must have been as big as a pub platter when it arrived. The puff pastry reached for the sky and the mound of mashed potatoes daunted even me, a potato junkie. We sat and talked and ate, and I was never able to clean my plate. That left me dreaming of those leftovers the next day...and the day after, and until I finally made it myself. My puff pastry (how did they get it so high?) was more manageable as well as my sides of veg. While making the stew, I added red wine along with the Guinness Extra Stout to the slow cooking beef. Mushrooms were put in for good measure. I don't think it gets much heartier or easier than this. The rich flavor belies the simplicity of the recipe, so you won't feel like you just cracked an ancient code to make it. The stew part can be made in advance and actually tastes better the next day, just reheat in one of your saucepans before putting it in a casserole and topping with the puff pastry. It can be baked and served in individual casseroles or made in one large one.

Gotta run....I think I have one more serving calling my name in the fridge!

Steak and Guinness Pie

1 1/4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence or equivalent mixture of herbs
1 cup (8 ounces) Guinness Extra Stout beer
1 cup dry red wine
15 ounces beef broth
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter, softened
salt and pepper to taste
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed if frozen

In a large dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the beef and sear until brown on all sides. Add the chopped onion and mushrooms, lower the heat to medium and continue cooking until the onion is translucent and the mushrooms are done. Stir in the garlic and cook about a minute more. Add the tomato paste, bay leaves and herbes de Provence, stirring until well blended. Pour in the beer, wine and beef broth, stirring well. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for an hour. Take off the cover and taste for richness. If it needs more flavor and reducing, simmer for a short while longer uncovered.

In a small bowl, work the flour into the butter to form a ball. Stir the butter/flour mixture well into the simmering stew to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste. At this point you may cool the stew and refrigerate to use later. If serving right away spoon into a casserole or casseroles, and top with a layer of puff pastry. Brush the pastry with milk or beaten egg for added color, and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until golden brown. Serve with vegetables on the side.

Makes about 6 cups.
Serves 4-6.

Cutting the Puff Pastry:

Lay a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Using the lid from your casserole as a template, cut around the puff pastry dough with a knife. Place on top of the casserole before baking.

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