Every day around 4 p.m., throughout my entire childhood, I would ask my mother, “What’s for dinner?” Four p.m. was, after all, the cut-off point for snacks, so the best way to get through the hour or two between crossing the snack Rubicon and arriving at dinnertime was to imagine what we would be eating. Even if I was at a friend’s house, I would call my mom and ask, “Hey. Mom. What’s for dinner?” (And then of course try to strike a deal with my friend to eat at whoever’s house offered the tastier meal.)
If I did end up at my own table, I could count on a lively dinner. My parents, siblings and I would tell stories from our day. If someone’s story inspired questions, we would fetch the appropriate volume of our 1954 World Book Encyclopedias to answer them. “What was Johnny Appleseed’s real name?” “Can elephants have twins?” “Why is Pennsylvania called the Keystone State?” We weren’t living in the 1950s, but we were living in a pre-smart-phone world and gathered information wherever we could.
Some nights, we would eat beef stew. Not only was it a frugal meal, allowing Mom to use up veggies, it was also a crockpot meal that freed her up for a busy day.
Since beef stew was a staple of my childhood, I love trying new recipes for stew. There’s a sense of familiarity and relief. It’s a familiar process, leading to variations on a basically familiar taste.
This St. Patrick’s Day recipe blends new flavors, stretching the familiar. I can’t imagine my teetotaling mother pouring Guinness into either a glass or a stew back then, but this stew, like hers, is rich, hearty, and full of complex flavors. And it’s a crockpot meal that allows you to go out and enjoy St. Patrick’s Day and come home to a warm meal. If you’re crunched for time, you can skip sautéing the parsnips and onion. You sacrifice a little flavor, but the onion and parsnip will still cook through.
- 1.5 pounds beef stew meat cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 cups beef or chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup Guinness extra stout
- 1 cup red wine, such as Cabernet
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 pounds red potatoes, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3-4 parsnips, chopped
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Salt and pepper the beef and then brown in olive oil, working in batches if necessary so that all the meat gets well browned. Add garlic. Transfer to crockpot and add all ingredients except parsnips, onions and potatoes.
- Saute parsnips and onions and add to crockpot. Add potatoes.
- Cook for 8-10 hours on low or 4-6 hours on high.