Saturday, February 13, 2010

Guinness Beef Stew for Lovers

Look, I am not the one to be giving relationship advice.

I'm notorious for picking absolutely the wrong kind of guy. Emotionally unavailable? Check. Borderline manic depressive? Check. Only shows an interest when he thinks I'm dating someone else? Double check.

Add an Eastern European accent and an addiction or two and there's no going back.

My last liaison went so awesomely that one of my guy friends coined the term "douchelationship": the act (or perhaps art?) of being involved with a douchebag.

She's just upset about her douchelationship.

So, who am I to judge what you serve your honey for Valentine's Day? God knows, you probably know better than me.

And yet...

It is my blog, and I can dish out all the unsolicited and unqualified advice I care to.

And since most of my friends are guys, I actually do know a thing or two about them. I know, for instance, that most of them just want simple things. (Give them a steak and they're happy. Really.) And I know that most of them don't want their wives or girlfriends stressed out, even if it's over cooking a nice meal for them. Maybe especially if it's over cooking a nice meal for them.

Therefore, I propose the perfect, guy-friendly, no-fuss meal for Valentine's Day. (I almost typed Thanksgiving. Ha! Me proposing a no-fuss meal for Thanksgiving. That's rich.)

I've served this Guinness Beef Stew, and the accompanying beer batter cheese bread, to a couple of guys now, and it's always a huge hit. It tastes rich and meaty and somewhat decadent, but is really a cinch to throw together. True, there's some prep work involved, but otherwise, it bubbles away all day in the slow cooker. The beer batter cheese bread (which I'll give you in the next post) is just a quick bread, even though it tastes like something way more. The last guy I served it to doesn't like cheese (?!) and had two slices.

So do yourself a favor and cook something that you know your man will love, and won't kill you in the process. Your douchelationship will thank you.

Which may not be a good thing.

Slow-Cooker Guinness Beef Stew

4 pounds boneless beef chuck stew meat
2 tblsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cups chicken broth (I use homemade, but you can use whatever. Choose something low-sodium)
1 1/2 cups Guinness (not extra-stout), divided
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Few sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate (yes, really), chopped
2 bay leaves
5 carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal into chunks
2-2 1/2 pounds of red baby potatoes, scrubbed

Pat beef dry with paper towels, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons (or so) of the oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Cook the beef in batches until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. (In my Le Creuset French oven, with this amount of beef, it takes about three batches.) Transfer meat to slow cooker insert.

Add carrots and potatoes to slow cooker.

Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil, onions, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to skillet and cook until onions are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add broth, 1 1/4 cups stout, sugar, thyme, chocolate, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Scrape up any brown bits. Transfer that to slow cooker.

Cook until meat is tender: 9-10 hours on low or 6-7 hours on high. Set slow cooker to high. Whisk flour and remaining 1/4 cup beer until smooth, then stir mixture into slow cooker. The flour will seize up some; do not freak out (like me). Just keep stirring it gently and then let it simmer, and it will work itself out. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until the sauce is thickened.

Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves, and serve.

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