Thursday, March 21, 2013

"The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever" by Beatrice Ojakangas - Beer-Baked Irish Beef (for St. Patrick's Day and in memory of "Tall" Carol)

Date I made this recipe:  March 17, 2013 (St. Patrick’s Day and in memory of my friend, "Tall" Carol)                       

The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever by Beatrice Ojakangas
Published by:  Chronicle Books
ISBN:  978-0-8118-5624-9
Recipe:  Beer-Baked Irish Beef – p. 218

Damn, March is an awful month!  I know, I know—there’s St. Patrick’s Day and there’s the first day of spring and this year there’s also Easter for those of you who are into fun and frolic.  But it’s also a time of great loss for me:  5 years ago on March 2nd, my mom passed away; 2 years ago on March 9th, my dad passed away and a year ago on St. Patrick’s Day, my best friend, “Tall” Carol, passed away.  I’ve told my poor husband, whose birthday is on March 1st, that we might have to stick that date on the end of February just so that we can celebrate it with joy and laughter instead of sorrow and tears.

So it’s been some kind of year and as I am not Irish and neither was Tall, I was not in the mood to really do much for St. Patrick’s Day except, of course, cook (and to hide out in my house to avoid debached and drunken drivers).  And today’s cookbook and recipe come straight to you from Tall’s collection and what the heck, I even found a beer recipe for the occasion.  As she liked beer, I think she would have liked this recipe.

In the “what a difference a year makes” category last year’s temperatures were a ridiculous and unseasonably high 75 degrees.  A group of us – family and friends – sat out on her deck planning her memorial to be held a month later.  That day too, the day of her memorial, turned out to be very, very warm.  But alas, this year we are back to our usual modus operandi which is to say snow and more snow and cold.  Today’s “opening” temperature was 12 degrees.  Let me repeat that – 12.  Brrr.  And so desperate temperature times call for desperate measures and that meant casserole!

Now whereas I tend to dream all year of summer sandals and warm temperatures, Tall loved skiing and the snow and so she would have been all excited by St. Patrick’s Day evening’s 4-inch snowfall and would have thought the stew I made in her honor was most appropriate to the weather.  And the fact that it had beer in it and was an Irish stew would have been just the thing she would have made for St. Patrick’s Day. 

The other thing I know about my friend was that she loved slow-cooked, falling-apart-as-we-talk beef stews.  She always reminisced and raved about a couple of crock pot roasts that I made on cross-country ski trips which was nice, but really, the crock pot did all the work.  I even considered making this recipe in a crock pot just to see how it would work but in the end, I went with 4 hours of slow-roasting in a 275 degree oven and it was perfect.  And once the flavors had a chance to “set” in the refrigerator, it was outstanding.  Tall was all about leftovers and usually divided and froze leftovers into single-size servings for eating at a later date; in this household, we usually eat the leftovers until we are bored and/or they’re gone.

As mentioned earlier, this book came from Tall’s collection and I have to admit that I did not make the connection right away to the fact that local author, Beatrice Ojakangas, wrote this book.  Beatrice is considered an authority on Scandinavian cooking and is a member of the James Beard Hall of Fame which earns her a hale and hearty “Uff duh” from the peanut gallery.  I like that local tie-in as it just seems to bring everything full circle.  This book is loaded with other yummy recipes, and includes everything from dips to desserts so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a substitute should the beer-beef recipe not suit you (although how could it not???).

So here’s how this whole thing went down:  we used one bottle of Guinness for the recipe, Andy poured himself a glass as well, I had my usual Bombay Sapphire martini (up with olives – a drink that Tall also enjoyed along with a good beer), and we raised our glasses to Tall, who is always here in spirit.  And so before I go, let me leave you with an Irish poem that I think Tall, who loved her cat Purl, would have enjoyed:

The Mouse on the Barroom Floor
Some Guinness was spilled on the barroom floor
when the pub was shut for the night.
Out of his hole crept a wee brown mouse
and stood in the pale moonlight.
He lapped up the frothy brew from the floor,
then back on his haunches he sat.
And all night long you could hear him roar,
'Bring on the goddam cat!'

Beer-Baked Irish Beef – serves 6 to 8
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon pepper
2 ½ to 3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1- to 1 ½ -inch cubes
6 slices bacon, diced
4 carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
4 large onions, cut into eights
2 cloves garlic, bruised and peeled
¼ cup minced fresh parsley, plus chopped fresh parsley for garnish
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 bottle (12 ounces) Irish stout or dark beer
Hot boiled potatoes for serving

Preheat the oven to 275F. 

Combine the flour, salt, allspice, pepper, and beef cubes in a plastic bag.  Shake until all the meat is evenly coated with flour.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove the bacon and set aside, leaving the drippings in the pan.

Add the floured pieces of meat, a few at a time, and quickly brown them on all sides.  Transfer to a deep 2 1/2- to 3-quart casserole with a cover.  Add the carrots, onions, garlic, minced parsley, rosemary, marjoram, and bay leaf to the meat.

Pour the beer into the skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Pour over the meat in the casserole.

Cover and bake for 4 hours, or until the beef is very tender.  Remove and discard the bay leaf.  Sprinkle the dish with the chopped fresh parsley and cooked bacon.  Serve over hot boiled potatoes.

No comments: