T.J. Says The Only ‘Meal’ Good Enough to Stand Up to Shepherd’s Pie is an Oatmeal Stout

IMG_1112As summer fades out of sight and the terraces close down, beer geeks look forward to the winter season brews. For those that follow seasonal beer releases, Fall isn’t just sweater weather. ‘Tis the season for Stouts! There’s nothing better in the summer than a thirst quenching IPA or Pale Ale with all its hoppy, zesty goodness. Likewise, when the leaves start to change colour and the wind becomes crisp, nothing warms the soul like a big, dark, chocolate-y Stout. Whether it’s of the Russian Imperial or of the dry variety, these big, black beauties are like a warm hug; they are the adult version of hot chocolate.

While this style is one of my favorites to drink, it’s also versatile enough to cook with. Fall season is also a great time to start cooking more hearty food. As it gets colder out, salads and tapas just won’t do anymore. No, what I want are big, steaming plates of meat and potatoes served on a wooden table in a tavern by a man with a beard, wearing plaid, Irish Pub style.

If you’ve never cooked with beer before, the first thing that you should know is that simmering the beer for over 30 minutes will evaporate most of the alcohol. Most craft beers have incredibly complex flavors and your reduction will add depth to your dishes. Just as with wine, it’s always best to cook with the same bottle that you’ll be drinking to accompany the meal. Be sure to have some left for the pairing. For my meal, I chose to add Coriveau from the Bilboquet brewery based in Saint-Hyacinthe (rate beer rating 93). This is a sweet oatmeal stout that has rich flavors of dark roasted grains with a slight smoky aspect and low carbonation. So let’s get to it.

 Ingredients:

¼ cup of olive oil (2 tablespoons unsalted butter)
1 large onion, chopped fine
2 big cloves of garlic, chopped fine
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped fine
4 big portobello mushrooms, chopped ½ inch slices
2 big zucchinis, sliced into thin circles.
2 cans of cream corn
1 ½ pound ground medium ground beef
Table salt and ground black pepper
5 tbls all-purpose flour
3 tbls of Montreal Steak Spice (or other steak spice mix)
2 cups dark stout (there are better stouts out there than Guinness – support your local brewery!)
2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves

photo 1(1)

For the topping:
5-6 russet potatoes, peeled (or partially peeled) and cut into 2-inch pieces
Table salt
2 tbls unsalted butter, melted
1/3  cup milk
Ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten

photo 2

Ovenware:

Square glass dish, 12 inch by 12 inch, 3 inch deep

* the longer the dish, the thinner the meat and potato topping will be

Add olive oil to skillet over medium-high head. Add onion, carrots, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the veggies begin to soften – about 5 minutes. Move to small bowl and set aside.

Add the ground beef to the pan along with Montreal Steak Spice with 1 tsp salt and break it up with a wooden spoon as you cook. Cook until completely browned on all sides. Drain the grease from the beef. Return veggies to the pan along with the beef and add mushrooms.

Add the flour to the pan and mix in the beef and veggies to coat completely. Cook over medium-heat for about 2 minutes to brown the flour. This will help develop flavor for the sauce.

Slowly pour in the beer. Reduce heat to low and cook until liquids thicken and start to bubble. Carefully stir in the thyme and cover to simmer: 20-25 minutes. In a separate pan, pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil and simmer on medium heat. Fry zucchinis for 3-4 minutes until soft.

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Preheat oven to 375.

Place potatoes in a large pot full of cold water. Place over medium-high heat, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook potatoes until fork-tender – about 20 minutes. Drain and let cool in a mixing bowl.

Spread out the beef with its juices into the dish. Spread out the corn on top. Next, layer the fried zucchinis to completely cover the corn.

To make the potato topping, mix in 1/3 cup of milk and 2 Tbsp of butter into the cooked potatoes, and mash the potatoes until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the gravy in your dish. Use the fork to rough up the surface of the mashed potatoes and brush the top of the pie with a beaten egg to help with browning.

Place the dish in the oven, and bake at 375 for about 40 minutes, until potatoes are browned and gravy is bubbly.

Serve with a glass of the same Stout you cooked with and enjoy!

An Article by T.J. Blinn

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