Beef Barley Stew braised in Lancaster Milk Stout Beer
Today was a day for comfort foods. Not because it was cold or dreary, but because it is still winter and I needed to make a big batch of something delicious. I was just given a "new" large slow cooker. I was talking with some friends about the merits of cooking in a Crock Pot and that I regretted not having a larger one to use. I have a small one but inevitably whatever I make usually has to go into a large Dutch or french oven or stock pot as I make too large much food to fit into my wee slow cooker. My friend, Dana and I were talking about this and she realized she had one collecting dust under her bed and that she should pass it along to me. It's gathering dust no longer because today I whipped up a batch of Beef and Barley Stew braised in Lancaster Milk Stout Beer. The stew cooked in the slow cooker for hours and turned into an inky deep, dark and delicious meal as its aroma permeated the entire house.
While the stew braised and bubbled, I headed outdoors for a mid-winter bike ride on a glorious day - a gift from the winter gods. The temperatures climbed into the mid-40's and the sun was bright. Donned my biking gear and my new bike shoe booties to keep my tootsies warm. They actually work - no more toe Popsicles! I got in a double loop around the river, 24 miles total! I watched the birds walk and sit on the ice floes and watched a woman feed several dozen Canadian geese, ducks and a pair of white geese while she sat along the river banks in the brush. I also ran into an old friend and walked and talked with her for about a mile and a half. It was a fantastic day made all the better because I had a scrumptious meal awaiting my return home.
This recipe is meant to be cooked in a slow cooker for 4 to 6 hours. For best flavor, sear and brown the beef and saute the vegetables before putting them all into the slow cooker. You will need a large dutch oven or stock pot as well as a slow cooker large enough to hold all of your ingredients - 5 to 8 quart capacity. A darker beer will work better than an ale or light beer, I suggest using a Porter or Stout. If you don't have beer, hate it or wont' use it, then a good dry red wine will work too. Can't handle the booze? Soda Pop might be an option. Use 1 can of Coke, Dr. Pepper or a snappy root beer or sasparilla soda. The stew will be sweeter, but the flavors will still be great.
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil - Divided
- Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- 2-3 Pounds Boneless or 4-5 Pounds with Bone Pot Roast or Chuck Roast (an inexpensive cut of beef intended for braising and slow cooking)
- 2 Large Onions - cut into half moon slices
- 4 Large Carrots - peeled and cut into large dice or chunks
- 3 Large Celery Stalks - cut into large dice
- 2 Medium Parsnips - peeled and cut into large dice or chunks
- 6 Garlic Cloves - roughly chopped
- 1/2 Cup Dried Mixed Mushrooms or 1 Pint Fresh Button Mushrooms (if using fresh, cut into quarters)
- 1 16 ounce Can Low Sodium Beef Broth
- 1/4 Cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
- 1/4 Cup Worchestire Sauce
- 4-5 Dashes Hot Sauce
- 1 12 Ounce Bottle Dark Stout Beer (such as Lancaster Milk Stout or Guinness)
- 3 Bay Leaves
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Thyme Leaves
- 2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley
- 1 Cup Uncooked Pearled Barley
- 1 Cup Water
- In a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers
- Season the beef with salt and freshly ground black pepper on all sides.
- Sear and brown the beef on all sides in the oil, allowing a good crust to form.
- Remove from pot and put the browned meat into the bottom of the slow cooker. Set aside.
- Using the same pot heat the second tablespoon of olive oil and add in the onions. Sauté the onions until they begin to caramelize – about 6 minutes.
- Add to the pot the carrots, celery, garlic and parsnips. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow vegetables to sweat for about 5-8 minutes.
- Remove the vegetables and add them to the slow cooker with the beef.
- Still using the same pot in which you seared the beef and sauteed the vegetables, pour in the bottle of beer, beef broth, soy sauce, worchestire, hot sauce, dried mushrooms, bay leaves, thyme and dried parsley. Season with several grinds of freshly ground black pepper.
- Bring the liquid to a boil. Once its reaches a boil, carefully pour the broth over the vegetables and the beef that is in the slow cooker.
- Cover the slow cooker insert with its lid and cook, covered for 4 hours on high or for up to 8 hours on low.
- During the last hour of cooking, add in 1 cup of dried pearled barley and 1 cup of water. Stir to incorporate and recover the crock pot.
- The stew is done when the meat is falling apart and/or off the bone and the barley is tender. Serves 6-8. Serve hot over mashed potatoes or creamy polenta!