I think we’re having our first true Minnesota winter in a long time. Days so cold I cross my fingers and crunch one eye in hopes the car starts. Mornings where I wake up to a ground again covered in white and I run to the television in hopes of a 2 hour delay from work. (Still waiting SPPS…) I’m a winter-freak. I love every part of it, with the exception of slow traffic. Snowshoeing. Skiing. Extra large snowbanks. All this winter stuff we’ve got going on this year is spectacular. (I’ve been told this enthusiasm is because I’ve never actually had to pick up a shovel since I moved to Minnesota. Not sure I entirely agree.)
Want to know what I think the very best part about winter in Minnesota is? The food. It’s no coincidence that Minnesota is famous for the casserole. There’s nothing better on a cold, snowy evening than a warm hot dish out of the oven. Okay, so maybe that’s a stretch for those of us who ate tater-tots with ground beef or tuna casserole our entire childhoods. But it is true that Minnesotans know how to warm up the house with a soup, stew or casserole better than anyone around.
My cast iron dutch oven has had one form of soup, stew or hot dish a brewin’ almost non-stop this month. Beef and barley have become our favorite warm up ingredients. My in-laws raise Black Angus cattle and graciously fill our freezer with chuck roasts and round steaks perfect for long Saturday afternoons of simmering on the stove. Last Saturday I made a beef barley stew with one very special local ingredient: Brau Brothers Moo Joos Oatmeal Milk Stout. Brau Brothers is located in tiny Lucan, MN (population 220), where the grow their own hops and source as much of their ingredients locally as they can.
That’s right. I make my beef stew with beer. Let me tell you there’s no better way. It only gets better with dark beer.
Wait. That line describes me too…
Brau Brothers Beef and Barley Stew
1 tablespoon oil
3-4 pounds of beef – (I used round steak, chuck roast or any beef shank cross-cut for this recipe)
For the Stock
1 1/2 bottles of Brau Brothers Moo Joos (or your favorite stout beer)
3 cups cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups carrot, cut into 1″ chunks
1 cup celery with leaves, cut into 1″ chunks
1 large onion, cut into 1″ chunks
1 teaspoon black pepper
For the Stew
1 cup uncooked barley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup carrot, chopped into coins
1 cup celery, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1. Heat oil in dutch oven over low heat. Add whole cut of beef, beer, water and salt. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam (This will reduce the remaining fat later).
2. Reduce heat, add remaining stock vegetables and pepper. Cover and simmer 3 hours.
3. When beef is tender, remove broth from heat. Spoon beef out and allow to cool slightly. Using a knife and pincers, cut the beef into 1″ pieces. After the beef is cut, skim any remaining fat from the top of the broth. You can also skim out the stock vegetables if you wish, but this is not necessary.
4. If stock has reduced to less than 6 cups, add in additional water to equal 6 cups. Return beef to the pot and add in barley and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add in remaining vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 30 more minutes until stew vegetables are tender.
Note : The stock steps can be made the night before and refrigerated. Return the beef to the pot and follow step 4 up to 3 days later.