This time of year tends to feel a little like we’re “trapped” in between seasons. Spring seems within arm’s reach yet is just beyond the touch of our extended, wiggling fingertips; and winter, while on its slow saunter out the door, still feels the need to throw its weight around by landing one or two more hard-core punches to the gut in the form of frigid storms and icy cold temperatures that make one want to retreat like a mouse into a cozy hole in the wall.
And while here in Los Angeles we’re not necessarily dealing with the acrid temper—the harsh weather— of this winter season, this “in-between” time in seasons can still, nonetheless, kind of make a person feel a bit…well, “in-between”, too.
In late winter/early spring, there never seems to be a shortage of items on the checklist of things to get done, none of which are particularly inspiring or fun to do, at least in my mind. For one, the yard is in a fairly dismal state and in desperate need of attention (especially after this massive rainfall we recently had here) with its greenish-yellowish patchy grass, its sprouting wildflowers that are popping up here and there, and the little mounds of shed leaves that need a good raking.
And for two (and probably my least favorite as I’m not at all a “paper work” kind of person), I’m about to start adding up and gathering/compiling all of our receipts and financial figures to get them all nice and organized for tax preparation time, which my hubs and I have done ourselves the past couple of years now (and which I think we’re frankly ready to relinquish back to a third party next year), and so there’s always a bit of breath-holding as we find out whether we still owe Uncle Sam something, or whether he, in fact, owes us.
Then there are those annual health appointments and screenings, ones where I find myself thinking, “Is it that time again, already?” But alas, what can one do. It’s a part of life, right?
The good thing is, this “in-between” time is a fairly brief period of time; and once these must-do items are given the attention they require, and I begin to cross them off of that checklist I have, my spirit begins to open up and brighten, just in perfect time to welcome true spring as it makes its entrance.
It’s then that the sunlight of the season begins to flood in, and the sweet breeze begins to wash everything in that heavenly, purple scent. And it’s coming soon.
So having said all of that, I’m not necessarily feeling dour, or even “blue”, but I definitely could benefit from a little sprinkling of merriment right now, and a general lightness of being. And that’s where good ol’ St. Patrick’s Day is a welcome, vibrantly green and jolly little holiday; a holiday where eating a delicious and hearty dish prepared with a good amount of “happy spirits” (aka Guinness beer) is not only encouraged, it’s a must!
(I believe there’s a saying in some pub somewhere, “Everyone’s Irish On March 17th”, so Irish let’s be!)
Now, to give you just a little background on this stew recipe, I have been making one very similar to this for about the past 6-7 years now. In that version, I never used beer, and didn’t add any delectably cheesy and crispy little garlicky toasts as a topper, but I did use the beef, the potatoes, the cabbage and the onions, and let me tell you, it’s probably hands down my family’s and my favorite soup/stew that I make. It’s got those “umami” like qualities that we love so much—a combination of savory, mildly tangy, and richly deep and earthy.
And since for the longest time my hubby had been telling me that I should share this favorite stew of ours on the blog, I figured that with St. Patrick’s day just a few days away, now was the ideal time to share it, complete with those rich and timely additions of Guinness and cheese toasts, to boot.
What could be more merriment inducing, and more simple and hearty to enjoy for this “in-between” time of year? St. Patrick would be proud, and surely be more than happy to partake himself, I think.
So here’s a cheerful little St. Patrick’s Day toast in the form of a recipe in honor of those of us that are feeling the “in-betweenness” of this particular time of year, and that need a little pick-me-up in the merriment and lightness department.
I have the feeling that soon enough, the snow will begin to melt, the icy cold will begin to move out, and little by little, we’ll get all of our to-do’s out of the way just in time to truly begin to enjoy the warmth that is surely on its way, and the sunlight that will brighten and infuse us with a healthy dose of vibrancy, optimism, a fresh perspective and hopefully, some growth.
But in the mean time, basking a little in the festive, green glow of the St. Patrick’s Day holiday seems like a joyful thing to do, and for me that means ladling up some comforting, merry delight in St. Patrick’s Favorite Guinness Beef Stew.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
St. Patrick’s Favorite Guinness Beef Stew with Potatoes, Rich Caramelized Onions & Cabbage, topped with Melty Garlic-Cheese Toast
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves about 6
• 1 ½ pounds lean beef stew meat, cut into bite-size chunks
• Black pepper
• 2 tablespoons flour
• Canola oil
• 2 onions, quartered and sliced
• 1 bottle (11.2 fl ounces) Guinness draught
• ¾ teaspoon herbs de Provence
• ¼ teaspoon granulated onion
• ¼ teaspoon granulated garlic
• 3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
• ½ head cabbage, halved again & cored, then shredded
• 4 cups beef stock, hot
• 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 2 teaspoons rice vinegar (you can also use white, but I prefer the milder flavor of the rice)
• Garlic Toasts, for garnish (recipe below)
• ½ cup shredded Irish gouda (or Irish cheddar) cheese
-In a large bowl, toss the beef stew cubes with a couple of pinches of salt and black pepper, plus the flour, to coat.
-Place a large soup/stew pot over medium high/high heat, and drizzle in about 2-3 tablespoons of the oil; once the oil is hot, add the beef in (work in a couple of batches, if necessary) and leave it undisturbed for a couple of minutes, to allow it to form a crust on the bottom, and brown; stir the meat, and allow it to continue to brown for a few minutes more until nicely caramelized with a crust on all sides.
-Remove the beef with a slotted spoon, and set aside for a few moments.
-Add another drizzle or two of oil into the pot, and add in the onions; allow them to cook for about 10 minutes, or until they begin to become golden-brown, and slightly caramelized.
-Next, add in the Guinness Stout, and allow it to reduce for about 5-6 minutes, still on fairly high heat, or until slightly syrupy and thickened.
-Next, add in the herbs de Provence, the granulated onion and garlic, plus the pressed cloves of garlic, and stir to incorporate; add the beef back in with all of it’s juices, then the potatoes and the cabbage, and carefully stir to combine.
-Add in the beef stock, cover with a lid slightly askew to allow just a little steam to escape, and reduce the heat to low to gently simmer the stew for about 1 ½ hours, or until the beef is very tender.
-To finish, add in the chopped parsley and the vinegar, and check your seasoning to see if you need any additional salt or black pepper; to serve, ladle into bowl, top with a garlic toast, and sprinkle on a liberal amount of the cheese; then place on a sheet tray under the broiler just until the cheese is melted and gooey.
Garlic Toasts Ingredients:
• 2 tablespoons melted butter
• French baguette, sliced on the bias into 6 slices
• Pinch salt
• 1 whole garlic clove, paper removed
-Preheat oven/toaster oven to 400°, and line a small baking sheet with foil.
-Brush some of the melted butter onto the slices of baguette, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt; place into the oven to toast until golden-brown, roughly 8-10 minutes.
-Rub the garlic clove lightly over the toasted bread, and set aside until ready to add to soup and top with shredded cheese to melt.