Friday, January 20, 2012

Beef for a Blustery Day

One of the nice things about having so many recipes collected on this blog is that I can easily revisit favorites and make some changes on the return visit. I did that last night with a dish that Sweetie particularly enjoys, beef and mushroom potpie.

When I made it before I used puff pastry on top and baked it in individual dishes. This time I cooked the meat part a few days in advance and let it chill to allow the flavors to really mingle. Things that have cooked onions in them often taste better with a day or two of sitting between the initial cooking and the eating. I also substituted refrigerated pie crust dough for the puff pastry because I had some in the fridge.

Instead of individual dishes I used a casserole dish and put the pie crust on top to make it a potpie. This is a hearty dish and makes at least 4 servings. I suspect that the leftovers will be tasty tomorrow, too. This makes a rich, savory, meaty, warm dish with the added delight of shards of crisp pastry from the crust. Some of the crust will be less crisp but delicious because it has soaked up the wonderful meat gravy.

The rain is coming down quite steadily today and there is some wind, too. We had a nice lunch with our friends/relatives from Healdsburg. Could be that a recipe will be posted from that meal in a day or two. I've also been working on the family cookbook revision and reading a new book which arrived today from Powell's bookstore in Portland, Oregon. It's the Momofuku Milk Bar book with lots of unusual dessert recipes. There will undoubtedly be something inspired by that book posted here within a week or so...maybe sooner. Thank you Natasha for the book!
Now, for that wonderful potpie. If you don't have Irish stout, a good dark beer would suit, too.

Beef and Mushroom Potpie with Stout
Adapted from a Gourmet 2004 recipe

2 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground (if possible) black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
1/4 cup water
1 cup can tomato sauce
1 can beef broth
1 cup Guinness or other Irish stout
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons butter
4 oz. sliced white mushrooms, wiped clean if necessary
4-5 stems Italian parsley

Ready-made, or home-made single pie crust (I used Pillsbury Ready Crust)
1 tablespoon egg white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place race in center or just below center of oven.

Place flour, salt and pepper in a clean paper bag and shake to combine. Pat beef dry and place 3-4 cubes at a time in the bag and shake to coat. Remove from bag, shaking off the excess flour and place on a plate or piece of waxed paper. Heat the oil in a wide 5 -6 quart ovenproof heavy pot over moderate-high heat until oil is very hot. (I used a large soup pot...that way the grease spatter from the browning meat mostly stayed inside the pot. It is ovenproof and has a tight lid, so I baked the dish in it, too, and it worked perfectly.)

Brown the meat in 3-4 batches, turning at least once, about 5 minutes per batch, transferring the browned beef to a bowl as each batch is done.

Once all beef has been removed to the bowl, add the onion, garlic and water to the pot and cook, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pan and stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, beef broth, stout, Worcestershire sauce and thyme and bring mixture to a simmer. Stir in beef and any juices from the bowl. Simmer one minute. Cover and simmer until beef is very tender and sauce is thickened, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. If sauce is too thin, thicken with a slurry of 2 tablespoons each flour and water, stirred into the sauce and cooked until sauce thickens.

Chill at least 4 hours or overnight to meld the flavors.

While stew is cooling, melt butter in skillet and sauté' the mushrooms, letting them brown lightly on each side. While they are browning, chop the parsley in a fine mince. Bring stew to room temperature.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees F. Place baking dish or dishes onto a shallow baking pan. Divide room temperature stew among the dishes (or put all in one large shallow baking dish). They won't be completely full. Spoon the cooked mushrooms over the stew, dividing evenly among the dishes or spreading over the larger baking dish if using. Sprinkle minced parsley over each dish or over the baking dish of stew.

Roll out pastry dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a circle about 9 inches in diameter and prepare for topping the stew; if using small dishes, cut the pastry into squares, place one on top of each dish of stew. If topping a larger dish of stew, roll up edges toward the center of the dough circle, flute the edges, cut a hole in the center and slash in four places, then use to top the large baking dish of stew. Brush tops of either kind of pastry with the egg white.

Bake pie(s)in preheated oven until pastry is golden brown, about 15 - 20 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees F and bake 5 minutes more to fully cook the dough. Serve right away. Sides that work well include almost anything with potatoes. I like to serve green peas or a green salad, although steamed broccoli works well too.


  1. MMM. May have to make something like this next weekend -- looks like Beef Wellington almost, and the green parsley looks lovely on it.

  2. This sounds fantastic. Will definitely make it soon.

  3. I guess it is a common man's Beef Wellington and it is truly delicious. I like it as individual servings with puff pastry toppers, but was too lazy this time to do that.

    Beth, Let me know how you like it if you do.