I was out for a pint with a couple of friends recently. We were in a bar, on Dublin’s Thomas Street. There were a very few customers and the only action going on was the rhythmic ticking of the clock. As usual, when one is having drink and enjoying the company of Tara Sparling and her persistently patient better half, Mark, everything was good in the world.
Side note on Sparling: I first met Tara at a blog awards ceremony a couple of years ago. She writes about all things books and literary. In my opinion, she is one of the funniest writers around. Check out her blog here.
As eventually happens in the round system, my turn came to buy the drink. I went to the bar and ordered from the very youthful barman.
Me: “One Heineken and two Guinness please.”
VYB: “You should have ordered the Guinness first.”
Me: (In bemused tone) “Why is that?”
VYB: (In a cocky, older than his years, way) “Because that’s the order I pull the drink. Because the Guinness settles while I pour the Heineken.”
Me: (Now not impressed with his impertinent manner) “But, I deliberately ordered in that way so the last thing you would hear was “two Guinness” and you could spring into action without having to process “One Heineken” between hearing the Guinness order and knowing it was time to act.”
The ticking of the clock seemed to get a little louder while he thought about this. His face darkened, he reached for a Guinness glass and said he would bring the order to our table.
Now, in theory, he is right. I well remember as a youth, beating my way to the bar in a crowded pub and shouting “One pint of Harp” and, when getting the attention of the hard pressed barman, adding “…and seven pints of Guinness”. My preferred order slowing down his serving the crowd of sweating punters calling for his attention. Hence, barmen, like the customer to get the Guinness bit in first. However, in a bar where the most exciting thing to happen is for an order to include a packet of salted peanuts, this preferred pint protocol is totally unnecessary.
Why do I tell you this little tale? For two reasons, Firstly, to spread the Sparling word far and wide. Secondly, as an excuse to cook something a bit different with Guinness. As if mimicking the slow settling black stuff, I will cook sous vide. My dish is a Beef and Guinness Stew. So let’s settle (pun intended) on calling it Beef and Guinness Stew Vide.
As with so many sous vide dishes, this dish is prepared in stages, separated by days. As a result, there is no all encompassing ingredients shot. So, in mock homage to my young bartending friend, I will show you the ingredients in a semblance of the order in which they should appear. We ate on a Sunday. So on Thursday evening, I poured a half litre can of Guinness into a saucepan and brought it to a gentle simmer. This to extract the alcohol.
Side note on alcohol extraction: I did this for a couple of reasons. Firstly I needed to freeze the Guinness so I could vacuum seal it with the meat. Removing the alcohol makes for a better freeze. Secondly, I began to wonder if the alcohol would have an effect on the cooking over the 48 hours that the meat would be in the bag. I have no idea if it would but, I couldn’t let it alone.
On Friday evening, I removed the frozen Guinness (in the ice cube tray) and some highly concentrated beef stock from the freezer.
I seasoned the beef and vacuum sealed everything shown in the picture above. Once done, it looks like everything in the picture below.
I placed this into the water bath at 61ºC. It stayed there for 48 hours. On Sunday, I went to the supermarket and picked up the balance of the ingredients. Those included button mushrooms, onion, celery, carrots and the ‘intelligent vegetable’, celeriac.
I cleaned the mushrooms and browned them in a bit of butter on a hot frying pan. I removed and reserved them. I should have reserved my comments to that barman too, I suppose.
I sliced the onion, celery and carrot into small pieces and placed them in a warmed, oiled casserole. I sweated these down.
Next, I peeled and sliced the celeriac. I then cooked it on the stovetop in 500ml of milk with a little salt and pepper.
On reaching the 48 hours cooking, I took the beef bag out of the water bath and poured the liquid into a saucepan.
I added two teaspoons of cornflour, diluted in 2 tablespoons of water.
When this was heated and thickened, I added the beef and mushrooms to the casserole before pouring over the warmed sauce.
I added the cooked celeriac to the blender and turned it to a nice purée.
I served the Stew Vide to a hungry hoard. I feel fully justified in calling it “Stew Vide”. It was really very delicious. The beef was tender, yet firm and full of beefy flavour. The vegetables were distinct and the whole thing was combined by a very flavoursome beef / Guinness gravy.
This is a stew but on a very different level to my usual ‘Chuck everything in a pot’ variety. If you sous vide – stew vide. You won’t regret it.