Savory Guinness Stew Hand Pies with Flaky Cheddar Crust

Guinness Pie

There’s something magical that happens to stout when you cook with it. Its chocolate undertones become more pronounced, as if the heat has broken down the beer’s molecules into its essential components, love and chocolate. What is that you say? Stout is made from water, and perhaps roasted barley, hops and yeast? Maybe literally, but figuratively, when that long-simmered stout reaches my tongue, my taste buds scream chocolate. Oh, and I love you.

Thats why, when presented with several pounds of chuck roast and little time to put things together, that stout came to mind. The little one had been taking up most of my attention this week, with her little nose running, and her little feet scampering into who-knows-what. So, not having any time to even brown the meat, I cubed it and chucked it into a crock pot with onions, carrots, celery and mushrooms. And of course two (that’s right) bottles of Guinness. After a day at work, we came home to the heavenly smell of simmering beef.

While browning the meat may have made the stew that much better; I’m thinking the second bottle of beer almost made up for the lack of fond (you know, the brown bits left from browning meat). Also, all of that chocolately stout disguised any paleness of the beef as a result of my laziness.

The first night, we ate the stew with a simple crisp green salad and delicious popovers. The second night was on its own, although I had planned to serve it over a bowl of white rice. On the third night, the stew was wrapped up by a  flaky cheddar crust and eaten as a hand pie. Yes, this recipe makes a lot of stew. And yes, the third iteration was my favorite. Serve the stew naked or as a pie; brown the beef, or choose not to. Either way, make sure you use two bottles of stout, and make sure you listen as your taste buds proclaim their love.

Guinness Pie

Check out that flaky crust!

Guinness Pie

Savory Guinness Beef Stew

2-3 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1 inch cubes
5-6 large organic carrots, cut into large cubes
8 ounces white button or crimini mushrooms, sliced in half
4 stems organic celery, cut into large cubes
1 large onion, cubed
2 tbls. tomato paste
1 tbls. brown sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup fresh flat leaved parsley, chopped
1 tbls. salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 cups low sodium beef or chicken broth
2 bottles Guinness or similar stout
4 tbls. butter
4 tbls flour
1 egg, lightly beaten.

1. Set crockpot to low, add meat, followed by vegetables, tomato paste, she and herbs.
2. Mix in liquids and gently stir to combine all.
3. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Adjust seasoning if required.
4. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir on flour and mix for five minutes.
5. Whisk in a couple of ladle culls of the stew broth into flour and butter. Once it has the flour mix has dissolved, add the rest of the broth and bring to a boil to thicken.
6. Add the thickened broth back to crockpot and serve in bowls.

Hand Pies
Prepared stew
Flaky cheddar crust
1. Cool stew and roll out dough.
2. Cut dough into 5 inch diameter circles.
3. Place 1-2 tbls filling in the center or the circles.
4. Fold over dough and seal with a fork. Brush tops with egg, and create vent holes.
5. Place pies on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper.
6. Bake for 25-30 mins, or until golden brown.


Flaky Cheddar Pie Crust

Cheddar cheese pie crust

I first learned how to make pie crust was a teenager. I fell in love with quiche, but my mom didn’t know how to make it, so I taught myself. Back then, I used shortening and the two fork technique, and despite my lack of experience and kitchen tools, the crust came out okay. That is, until I discovered frozen pie crust. At the time, frozen crust was a revelation to me, and it cut my quiche prep time considerably.

Fast forward years later, and faced with a double batch of beef stew, I decide to make hand pies.  But frozen supermarket pie crust simply won’t do. Looking for a good crust recipe, I come across The Smitten Kitchen, whose use of vodka sounds intriguing. I love when a good recipe turns out because of science. The crust is flakier because of vodka’s low evaporation point? Sure, I’ll go with that.

But what made the crust fantastic, was the addition of good cheddar. The sharp tang of the cheddar along with the buttery crust just made it sublime.  It was a great foil for the stew, the bite of the cheese offsetting the richness perfectly. Have I been turned off frozen crust completely? Heck no. It has it’s place, as a time-saver and recipe helper, frozen crust is the way to go. But I am glad I took a chance with this recipe, and this is only the beginning. Apple pie with cheddar crust, chicken pot pie with parm crust, bacon quiche with pepper jack crust. Oh pie, I’ve only just begun.

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen

Cheddar Cheese Crust

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp table salt
2 tbls sugar
1 cup of cold organic unsalted butter, cut into small dice
1 cup good sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

1. Once you’ve diced your butter, place it back into a small bowl and into the fridge.

2. Measure out flour (I like to weigh it) into a large bowl, and add salt, sugar and cheese. Mix to combine.

3. Add the very cold butter and cut it into the flour mix until it resembles coarse cornmeal.

4. Combine water and vodka into a measuring cup, and begin to fold in, a few drizzles at a time. Continue to drizzle in liquid and fold in dough until just combined.

5. Once the dough just comes together, use your hand to gather up the stray crumbs and knead a couple times to combine.

6. Divide dough into two balls, flatten into disks and place in fridge for at least an hour and up to 2 days. Roll out dough and use at will, brushing top with egg wash if desired. I found that baking at 375 degrees until golden brown resulted in a great crust.