The calendar says it’s supposed to be Spring, but this weekend it’s been cloudy and a bit bleh, so I was feeling like I needed something warm and comforting for Sunday night dinner. I thought this would be the perfect day to follow through on a recipe I’d been wanting to try for the past year, Beef in Beer by Laura Calder.
I first discovered this recipe in a special collector’s edition TV Guide celebrating 10 years of Food Network Canada. I must confess that I’ve always wanted to make something with beer (but not something beer-battered) and I was intrigued the moment I flipped to this recipe. It’s too bad I kept forgetting about it. Once in a while I’d flip through the magazine, get to the recipe, declare “YES I WILL FINALLY MAKE THIS”, then promptly forget again. This went on for more than a year. Sometimes my brain just likes to forget things.
The recipe itself didn’t have a suggestion for what to serve it with. So I came up with my own side-dish creation, Oven-roasted Bacon Pomatoes – baby potatoes, assorted heirloom cherry grape/cherry tomatoes, and bacon.
At times like these, I really wish I had a slow cooker, but we simply don’t have the counter space in our tiny kitchen (I would’ve settled on a Le Creuset casserole dish, but I don’t have one of those either). Instead, I used a plain white casserole dish and covered it with foil.
The recipe doesn’t specify a type of beer to use. We’re not big beer drinkers – actually, we’re not big drinkers in general – so it’s not like we always have beer in the fridge. We popped over to the local liquor store and settled on this random German beer that neither of us have ever heard of. But hey – it’s the exact amount called for in the recipe (500 mL/2 cups) and it was sold in single cans, so no need to buy an entire six-pack! I wanted to use Guinness (or a similar stout beer), but they only came in the packs and since neither of us drink Guinness, I passed this time around. It was pretty amusing to buy just one can of beer.
I really love using simple veggies. I love the comforting aspect of potatoes (mmmm, carbohydrates), but at the same time I wanted to balance it with something “zingy”, hence the tomatoes. Roasting tomatoes brings out an incredible richness, but still maintains the acidic tang.
First things first – browning the beef. I cooked the beef in small batches to prevent overcrowding in the pan. Overcrowding leads to steamed beef, which does not allow it to brown properly.
I thought Laura was crazy for using 3 onions because it just seemed like a TON, but they do cook down a lot. I ended up burning some of these onions as I was preoccupied with doing dishes, but I ended up getting them nicely caramelized.
Now for the layering. I started with the beef at the bottom, then added a layer of onions on top. The recipe called for a bouquet garni, however I couldn’t find fresh thyme sprigs and the parsley at the grocery store looked really sad. Instead, I sprinkled a bit of dried thyme on the beef and let the bay leaves go “free form” (I omitted the parsley all together).
All layered and ready for the beer and beef stock.
While I waited, I cooked up some bacon. One cannot go wrong with bacon. I cut all the fatty bits off and used just the meatier bits (in an attempt to keep it healthier, snort).
I par-boiled the potatoes (since they take longer to roast than the tomatoes and I wanted them to hang out together), let them cool, and mixed them together with the tomatoes, bacon, a splash of olive oil, salt, and pepper. I kept the flavour very simple so it wouldn’t compete with the beef.
And voila! A beautiful, comforting meal, perfect for a gloomy Sunday. I enjoyed the light beer flavour that the random, unknown German beer gave to the beef, but I think next time I’ll use Guinness for a more deeper, richer flavour. I was also expecting the liquid to be a bit thicker, so I may have to adjust the stock/beer part and make sure it’s thickened enough before it goes into the oven – and sop it up with a nice, crusty baguette… mmmmmmm… I’m already looking forward to making this again.
Beef in Beer (original recipe, as printed in the magazine)
- 2 tablespoons beef drippings or butter, more as needed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 pounds sirloin tip, cut into fat fingers
- 3 onions, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1-1/2 cup beef stock
- 2 cups beer
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, thyme spring, a few parsley stems)
1. Melt the butter and oil together in a sauté pan and, working in batches, brown the beef strips on all sides. Remove. In the same pan, fry the onions until soft, about 15 minutes, then add the garlic one minute. Remove. (Check if there is fat in the pan. If not, add a good tablespoon of butter and let it melt.)
2. Add the flour and sugar to the pan and cook 1 minute to make a roux. Gradually whisk in the stock and bring to a boil. (At this point, turn the oven on to 325°F/160°C.) Add the beer and the vinegar to the boiling stock, and bring back to the boil, cooking until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove.
3. In a large casserole, layer the onion mixture alternately with the beef strips, seasoning each layer as you go with salt and pepper. Tuck in the bouquet garni and pour the liquid over. Cover and bake for 2-1/2 hours. If you can wait a day before eating, cool the dish completely when it’s out of the oven, and refrigerate overnight: the flavour will be even better when you reheat it.
Oven-roasted Bacon Pomatoes
- 3 strips of bacon
- 1/2 pound baby potatoes, scrubbed and cut in half
- 1/2 pound grape or cherry tomatoes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the potatoes and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
3. Cut the bacon strips into small pieces. In a skillet, fry the bacon on medium heat until evenly cooked (cook to your desired crispiness level). Drain the excess fat on a paper towel-lined plate and let cool.
4. In a large bowl, toss together the potatoes, tomatoes, bacon, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly to coat all the ingredients evenly. Transfer to the baking sheet, spacing the potatoes and tomatoes evenly in one layer. Bake for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.