While corned beef and cabbage is most associated with how Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, so is Guinness — the dark stout beer brewed Ireland.
So when I was scanning through recipes looking for a St. Patrick’s Day theme, this Beef and Guinness Pie with Chocolate caught my eye. OK ... So it was more so the chocolate that caught my eye. The only other time I’ve used chocolate in a savory way was with beef in chili recipes and in Mexican mole sauces.
This recipe is from “Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen: A Fresh Take on Traditional Flavors” by Clodagh McKenna (Kyle Books, $29.95). McKenna is the author of five cookbooks, has a television series in Ireland and on PBS in the U.S. and Create TV, and owns a restaurant in Dublin.
Although only a small amount of chocolate is used, it contributes plenty to the recipe. The chocolate not only compliments the beef, it also adds a layer of flavor.
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Use a good quality chocolate for the recipe with a high cacao percentage. Once you make the sauce, give it a taste. The chocolate should be there, but not overpowering.
One key to developing a hearty flavor with this recipe is making sure you get a good sear on the beef pieces. Once you cube the beef, pat the pieces dry with paper towel before tossing them with the flour. This helps them sear, instead of steam, and develop a nicely browned, flavorful crust. Doing so also helps develop what is called “fond” in the bottom of the pot. Fond are those little bits of food and concentrated juices that are full of flavor.
The recipe also piqued my interest because I’ve been seeing so many recipes with puff pastry as an ingredient — from appetizers to desserts. Puff pastry is one of those special indulgent ingredients. The pastry is known for its rich, buttery and flaky layers. Using it adds just another layer of richness.
While this recipe looks long, it really comes together quite nicely. Once you’ve prepped all the ingredients, it’s a matter of searing the meat and cooking the vegetables. The beef filling cooking time is hands-off.
Beef and Guinness pies with chocolate
Makes: 4 pies; preparation time: 45 minutes; total time: 3 hours 45 minutes (not all active time). You will need four 6-inch pie tins or 10-ounce ramekins for this recipe.
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck trimmed or flat iron steak cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
6 shallots, peeled chopped
4 medium-size portabello mushrooms, wiped clean, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 large carrots, peeled, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed
1 rib celery, finely chopped
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 2/3 cups Guinness Draught or extra stout
1 to 2 cups unsalted beef stock or low-sodium beef broth
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped or grated bittersweet chocolate or dark chocolate
1 package (17.3 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, beaten
Pat the beef cubes dry with paper towel. In a large bowl, toss the beef with 2 tablespoons flour, kosher salt and black pepper. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Working in batches, brown the beef on all sides; transfer to a plate. Repeat, using another tablespoon of oil and remaining beef.
If needed, add another tablespoon oil to the pot. Add the shallots, mushrooms, carrots, garlic and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme sprigs.
Return the beef to the pot. Add the Guinness and enough beef broth so the entire mixture is completely covered. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beef is tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Once the beef is done, strain the cooking liquid into a large glass measuring cup. You should have about 3 cups. If not add more beef stock and Guinness. Return the beef and vegetables to the pot, discarding the thyme.
In a saucepan melt the butter. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons flour to form a smooth paste. Whisk in 1/2 cup cooking liquid over medium heat. Gradually whisk in the rest of the strained cooking liquid and simmer until slightly thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the chocolate and stir to melt. If the sauce is too thick add more stock or Guinness. Pour the sauce over the beef and vegetables and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one sheet of the thawed puff pastry into about a 14-inch square. Cut to two circles large enough to fit in the bottom and up the sides of the pie tin or ramekin, about 8-inches. Cut out two circles that will fit the top. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry sheet. Evenly spoon the beef mixture into the pastry-lined pie tins or ramekins using about 1 1/4 cups each. Top with the 6-inch circle and pinch the edges together to seal.
Cut 2 diagonal slits in the top center. Brush the pastry with the egg. Place the pies directly on the lower oven rack. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Let rest a few minutes. Serve directly in the pie tin or invert onto a plate.
Adapted from “Clodagh’s Irish Kitchen” by Clodagh McKenna (Kyle Books, $29.95). Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.