Pilsner Beef Stew, Whatever Amount of Johnnie Walker Scotch You Have Left, and 11 Songs to Cook To

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Over the late winter and early spring months of 2009 I set myself on a course to create a kick-ass beef stew from scratch. No recipe to guide me. No preconceived notion on how to construct a stew. And no boundaries for ingredients. The only stipulation was that it had to be photogenic and have its own soundtrack. Finally, on a slutty-hot, summer afternoon in August, and with a fantastic play-list, was my stew born. That night, I invited my friend, Ryan, over to indulge. Of course, serving rich, heavy, cold-weather, comfort food on a 90 degree day is a tough sell. But, Ryan’s a tough gal.

And she likes scotch….a lot.

Start with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label, and 3 lbs. of beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2inch cubes.Pour yourself an audaciously sizable glass of Red Label on the rocks, and press play on the play-list below. In a large bowl toss the beef with a tablespoon of kosher salt, a tablespoon of pepper, and 1 cup of corn starch. I prefer corn starch over flour, ‘cause it’s Kosher, it’s lighter than flour, and it’sgluten free…for all my gluten-resistant pals.

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When finished tossing your meat (….I had to) heat up two tablespoons of bacon fat (from your jar of bacon drippings that you replenish constantly in your fridge…) in a Dutch oven over medium heat, and brown the beef cubes. You will need to do this in batches to avoid over-crowding.

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When you’ve finished browning the meat, place in a bowl. For photo-op purposes, a shiny stainless steel bowl works best.

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Now, dice up one large onion, three large carrot sticks, one cup sliced mushrooms, and three cloves garlic and toss in the Dutch over with three bay leaves. Stir them well and heat through (about 10 minutes). Then pour in a half a cup of white wine. This will help deglaze the pot and add some good boozy flavor to things. Speaking of boozy, you’re now thinking, “Um, Andy, you haven’t called for a scotch refill…jerk”. And yes, you’re right. But, I’m not your mother. And like my mother Maxine, you should be able to pour yourself a fresh one when needed.

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Now, dice up one large onion, three large carrot sticks, one cup sliced mushrooms, and three cloves garlic and toss in the Dutch over with three bay leaves. Stir them well and heat through (about 10 minutes). Then pour in a half a cup of white wine. This will help deglaze the pot and add some good boozy flavor to things. Speaking of boozy, you’re now thinking, “Um, Andy, you haven’t called for a scotch refill…jerk”. And yes, you’re right. But, I’m not your mother. And like my mother Maxine, you should be able to pour yourself a fresh one when needed.

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Speaking of color, here’s the deal with Johnnie Walker (And for you single malt snobs, what-fucking-ever. JW is a fine scotch, and goes well with (cooking) any food). The Red is fine. It’s like Dewar’s, but not as creamy. The Black is excellent. The Gold is a little bizarre, and kind of sweet. The Green is crafty and kind of intense. And the Blue is absolutely not worth $240 a bottle, BUT it is fucking good and if offered, when the guy goes “On me…please…I insist”, say, “yes”. Speaking of, I was at a Blue Label tasting a couple years ago and in attendance was Colin Farrell . Holy potatoes did I wanna punch him in the goatee. Instead, I slapped famed travel writer and Saveur EIC, Adam Sachs, silly at Pegu Club later that evening.

Also, that night, John Hodgman stole $20 from me.

But I digress. Return beef to pot, add two 14 oz. cans of beef stock or broth, preferably homemade. Stir well, and heat through. Now, with all the discipline in the world, open a pilsner of your choice (OK, full confession: I knew I wanted to add a beer, but I didn’t want something overwhelming, nor did I want something too bland….and Brooklyn Pilsner was on sale at the market, so….) and resist tasting it. Pour its contents in the pot

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Bring the pot to a simmer, and cover. Heat through for a good hour and a half. When the time is up, add two tablespoons corn starch (to thicken), and two tablespoons of butter (to add a lovely shimmer to the stew, and an enormous amount of flavor).

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Stir well, then finish with a quarter cup chopped parsley.

When done, you should have this

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To serve, ladle over buttery egg noodles or buttery mashed potatoes….butterymashed potatoes. I wouldn’t suggest both…but now that you mention it, that’s not a fucking bad idea.

Ingredients

  • 3lbs. beef chuck
  • 1 large onion
  • 28 oz beef stock or broth
  • 1 bottle pilsner
  • 4 oz. tomato paste
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • flat leaf parsley
  • corn starch
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • white wine
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • Johnnie Walker Red Label scotch

 



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