Most people who visit Ireland go to see castles, explore pretty coastal villages and eat hearty Irish meals, all of which was exactly what I had in mind on my first trip to Ireland. But I made the colossal error of asking my husband to plan our trip. So, we flew into Dublin and drove straight across the island to climb on rocks at The Burren. I was not entirely sure about all this.
In case you haven’t heard of The Burren (I hadn’t before I stumbled and staggered across it), it is one of Europe’s largest karst landscapes, about 100 square miles (250 square kilometers). Karst topography is an area of soluble bedrock, in this case limestone. The karst in The Burren is a rugged, rocky expanse that runs along the Atlantic coast and the Galway Bay in western Ireland.
Despite the rocky terrain, it is a hotbed of beautiful botanical wildlife — a magical and bewildering coexistence of rocks, harsh climate and flowers. Inexplicably, the terrain hosts flowers otherwise found only in the Arctic Circle as well as those native to southern Europe.
As one might expect from a visit to the west coast of Ireland in early spring, the weather for our walk was fierce — wet squalls and nearly gale force wind howling across The Burren. Had we not found Shane, a knowledgable guide, native to The Burren, who assured us we would not be blown to bits on the rocks, I probably would have resisted the whole idea.
Despite some struggles with the weather,
it was a fascinating walk
with beautiful vistas.
After two exhausting but exhilarating days trekking The Burren, I did get to visit a castle,
see some charming villages and eat some hearty Irish fare, such as a comforting Beef Stew with Guinness.
Guinness Beef Stew
Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Serving Size: 6
1 tablespoons oil, canola
4 pounds beef, chuck, cut in 2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon butter
2 shallots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
3 tablespoons flour, all purpose
14 ounces Guinness
2 cups water
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
2 springs rosemary, fresh, leaves removed and minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1. If you are starting with one-piece beef chuck, trim the fat, bones and grizzle. Reserve any large bones. Cut meat into 2 inch pieces. For convenience, you can use beef stew meat, but I prefer to trim my own. Salt and pepper meat.
Place canola oil in a large Dutch Oven-style pan (do not use olive oil as it will smoke) and heat to medium-high. Place meat chunks in a single layer generously spaced and do NOT move the meat until browned on one side. Turn and brown the other side.
Cook meat in batches as needed. When finished, remove all meat from pan and set meat aside. You should have a nice dark brown fond (not burned) in the base of the pan. Do NOT wash the pan.
- COOKING FUNDAMENTALS: FOND. The fond is what is left in the pan after browning (caramelizing) meats. Components of the meat (primarily carbohydrates) change to flavorful aromatics and take on a characteristic dark color (like caramelized sugar). Fond is the basis of pan sauces and good braising liquids. If a fond is sufficiently flavorful, it is not necessary to add stocks to your sauce. Instead, the sauce is made by deglazing the pan with a suitable liquid (wine/water/beer, etc.), which is then thickened and seasoned as needed.
2. Add 1 tablespoon butter to the fond in the pan. Over medium heat, add shallots, onion and celery. Sweat vegetables and add garlic. Cook an additional 3 minutes.
Add 3 T flour to the pan (you can leave chopped vegetables in the pan) to make a roux with the fat (butter and fat from meat). Stir an additional few minutes to cook the flour. This will thicken your final sauce.
Add 14 ounce can of Guinness. Stir to deglaze, bringing to a simmer and scraping the bottom of the pan. Add 2 cups water, tomato paste, salt, pepper, bay leaf, rosemary and brown sugar. Return meat to the pan and bring to a simmer.
NOTE: This stew calls for water rather than additional stock – since you will get plenty of beef flavor from browning your meat and from the Guinness.
Cover and simmer for 1 hour. After one hour, you should have a plentiful, silky sauce. You’ll need the extra sauce for the carrots.
3. Add carrots. Simmer uncovered for an additional 45 minutes – or until carrots and meat are tender.
4. Serve with steamed cabbage and boiled or mashed potatoes.
5. DO AHEAD DIRECTIONS: You can make the entire stew ahead, refrigerator or freeze, and reheat when needed. If freezing, I like to prepare through step 2, thaw and add carrots when reheating; I think it give the carrots a nicer texture. Either approach is workable.
If you are planning a Saint Patrick’s Day party for a crowd, this will be a great do-ahead party meal. Just make your stew and mashed potatoes ahead of time for reheating later (stove top for stew; oven for potatoes), and prep your cabbage for steaming when guests arrive.