Guinness Stew with Sage and Ginger
I love slow cooking because your food almost cooks itself. You do a little work, then the stove or oven coaxes complex flavor out of simple ingredients.
Guinness stew is traditional cold-weather fare and a staple at most good Irish pubs. There are a million versions of the recipe. This is mine, with a few tips and tricks from The Angry Chef, close friend to the owners of many a Boston Irish bar. (How do you make yours?)
While it’s not a quick thing to make, you actually spend relatively little time in the kitchen. Like baking bread, this recipe is one part work and nine parts waiting. Make it on a day when you’ll be around the house for a while. Get some chores done (or some good, quality lollygagging). Reward yourself in the evening with a bowl of hearty stew that took a lot of time—but not too much effort to make.
Made with Guinness stout, this stew gets a deep, meat-y flavor from 3 types of beef: oxtails, beef shank, and boneless short ribs. The oxtails are pretty gelatinous, which gives your finished stew a rich, velvety broth.
It gets extra flavor from a big piece of ginger, a whole head of garlic, fresh bay leaves, and a shot of whiskey. The sweetness from an almost ridiculous amount of carrots balances out the bitterness of the beer.
Enjoy it with a hunk of crusty, buttered bread and a glass of ice-cold hard cider—or, of course, a Guinness.
Guinness Stew with Sage and Ginger: The basic technique
- Brown the bones for about an hour.
- Simmer them in stout for about an hour.
- Remove the bones and strain the broth (pick the meat off the bones and reserve for the end).
- Add browned short ribs and fresh veggies and simmer for about an hour.
- Cut up the short ribs, add all the meat back into the pot, simmer for 15 more minutes.
- Serve and enjoy!
Guinness Stew with Sage and Ginger
3 meaty oxtails (about 1 3/4 lbs.)
1 beef shank (about 1 lb.)
60 baby carrots
freshly cracked black pepper
3 ribs celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
14 large sage leaves, cut into ribbons
4 pint cans of Guinness (you can use other stout, but then it wouldn’t be Guinness stew, now would it?)
3 fresh bay leaves
1 medium head garlic
1 large finger ginger
1 bunch of parsley
3 large white potatoes
2 Tbls. tomato paste
3 lbs. boneless beef short ribs (or stew meat)
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil. Lay down a sheet of parchment paper on top of the foil. (I do this to keep the meat from browning onto the foil.) Set aside.
Guinness Stew with Sage and Ginger, Part 1: Roast the bones
Unpack the oxtails and the beef shank. (You may see it labeled with something like “center cut of beef shin bone.”)
Lay them out on your prepared pan. (Warning: Gratuitous meat photography to follow.)
Drizzle the meat generously with olive oil.
Sprinkle liberally with kosher salt.
Crack on some fresh black pepper.
Spread 30 of the baby carrots about evenly.
Strew about the diced celery and onion.
Grab your sage leaves.
Stack them up.
Slice across the leaves and cut into thin ribbons.
Sprinkle the sage ribbons over the meat and veggies.
With your hands, toss the veggies around to coat them with oil. Stick the pan in the oven and roast for about 45-50 minutes at 425 degrees.
Take the pan out of the oven when the meat is deeply browned, like this:
Guinness Stew with Sage and Ginger: A cook’s treat
When it comes to the shank, you have two choices regarding that deliciously melt-y beef marrow. You can toss it into your stew for extra flavor and fat. Or, you can fish a large piece of it out with a teaspoon and spread it on a hot piece of buttered toast for one of the ultimate cook’s treats. It’s up to you.
Guinness Stew with Sage and Ginger, Part 2: Simmer your roasted bones in stout
Transfer your roasted oxtails and the beef shank into a large, heavy stew pot. I use an enameled cast iron pot.
Scrape the veggies, juice, and fat from the roasting pan into your stew pot.
Crack open the cans of Guinness and pour them into your stew pot.
At this point, the contents of your pot will be a frothy mess. Don’t worry a bit. Just give it a stir with a wooden spoon and turn the heat up to medium-high to bring your stew to a boil.
While it’s coming up to a boil, add the fresh herbs. Warning: This part is approximate and rather slapdash. That’s just fine, because these ingredients are here strictly to flavor the broth. You’re going to fish them out in about an hour and toss them.
Toss in a few fresh bay leaves.
Cut a medium-sized head of garlic in half horizontally.
If you like, pull out and discard the center of each clove, which contains the sprout. Some folks don’t like this part, as it *can* be a bit bitter. I don’t mind it at all, so I leave it in. Add the garlic to the pot.
Peel a large piece of ginger (I used one slightly smaller than my palm).
Cut it into large chunks and toss it into the pot.
Cut the stems off a bunch of parsley and add them to the pot.
When your pot is boiling, the heat will start to draw out the impurities from the meat. Skim this scum off with a spoon and discard it. (It will be opaque and pretty icky looking.)
Run a flat-bottomed spoon along the broth, just under the surface. Your goal is to skim off the foamy stuff, without getting too much broth along with it. Your spoon should have in it: 1st) scum, 2nd) fat, 3rd) a very small amount of broth, if any.
Keep doing this until you have fished off most of the scummy foam.
When you’ve fished off all the scum, your stew should look like the photo below. Cover the pot, turn the heat down to low, and let it cook for about an hour.
Guinness Stew with Sage and Ginger, Part 3: Remove the oxtails and beef shank and strain the broth
After an hour, the oxtails and the beef shank will be pretty tender. Take them out of the pot and set aside on a sheet pan lined with parchment or foil. You’ll deal with them in a little bit.
Guinness Stew with Sage and Ginger: Interlude
If you have a dog, he might be loitering in the kitchen right about now, looking really happy and kind of intoxicated by all the meat-y smells in the air, like this:
If he’s been really good, you might reward him with a nibble or two on that shank bone.
(Cooked bones can be brittle and sharp, so don’t let your dog walk away with this unsupervised.)
Now that you’ve removed the bones and placated the dog, fish out all the solids from the broth using a slotted spoon or strainer. (You could also pour the broth through a strainer into another pot.)
With a spoon, skim off any large pools of fat on the surface and discard. Bring the broth up to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Guinness Stew with Sage and Ginger, Part 4: Add browned short ribs and fresh veggies
While your broth is coming up to a simmer, grab your boneless short ribs from the fridge.
Sprinkle them with a little kosher salt. Brown them well on all sides over high heat. Do this all at once (like I did, with a double-burner grill pan), or in batches.
When they’re nicely browned on all sides, add them to your pot. (Whole? Yes, whole. You’re going to cut them up once they’re cooked.)
Add about 30 baby carrots, cut in thirds. (If you’re using regular carrots, about 3 medium to large carrots should do it.)
Next, peel 3 large white potatoes and cut into large-ish sized chunks.
You can also use any other kind of waxy potato (like a red potato). Starchy potatoes (like russets) aren’t great for this because they tend to break down too much.
Toss the potatoes into the pot. Give the contents of your pot a quick stir to combine everything.
Add 2 Tbls. tomato paste to the pot.
Pour in a shot of good whiskey. I used Johnnie Walker Black. This is your secret weapon. (An awful lot of recipes out there don’t do this.) It fortifies and enhances the flavors.
Stir to disperse the whiskey and the tomato paste into the broth. Reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot tightly and simmer it�untouched�for about an hour, until the meat is meltingly tender.
Guinness Stew with Sage and Ginger, Part 5: Finish your stew up, serve, and enjoy!
While your stew is simmering, go back to the oxtails and beef shank that you’ve set aside. By now, they should be cool enough to handle without burning yourself.
With your hands, pull the meat off the bones. Separate any large pieces of fat or gristle and discard them. Shred the meat into small-ish sized pieces. Toss the oxtail bones.
After about an hour, check on the short ribs in the pot. You should be able to pull the meat apart easily with a fork.
If this isn’t the case, cover the pot up again, simmer for another 10 minutes, and check again.
When the meat is done, remove the short ribs from the pot and transfer them to your sheet pan. (Scoot the oxtail/shank meat over to make some room.) Keep the heat under the pot on low.
With two forks, or a fork and knife, pull the short ribs apart into stew-sized chunks.
Before you add the meat back into the pot, take a look at the broth. If you’d like it thicker, smash a few of the potato chunks up against the inside of the pot with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir the mashed potatoes in to the broth to thicken it slightly.
Add the meat back to the pot. Stir well to combine. Taste it and season with kosher salt or black pepper to taste. Cover the pot, and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes more.
While your stew is simmering, mince some parsley. Cut 6 or 7 sage leaves into ribbons, just like you did earlier.
When your stew has simmered for 15 minutes, toss the parsley and sage into the pot.
Stir to combine well.
Serve and enjoy! This stew keeps really well for a handful of days, getting a little thicker in the fridge.