Beef stew from here — because we’re not all there

Sidonie Maroon
Posted 3/22/23

It was a day of stew, chill and damp. 

I looked at Irish stews, with St. Patrick’s Day approaching, but I didn’t have mutton or lamb, and a dark beef stew was what I craved. So …

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Beef stew from here — because we’re not all there

Beef takes on a delicious twist with a sauce made of Port Townsend stout.
Beef takes on a delicious twist with a sauce made of Port Townsend stout.
Photo courtesy of Sidonie Maroon

It was a day of stew, chill and damp. 

I looked at Irish stews, with St. Patrick’s Day approaching, but I didn’t have mutton or lamb, and a dark beef stew was what I craved. So how about one that featured a Port Townsend Stout? Yes, a rich, beefy flavored stew, braised in stout with roasted parsnips and potatoes with fresh thyme on the side.  

To brown or not to brown? 

To create a golden-brown exterior from the chemical Maillard reaction, most recipes ask us to sear our beef. It’s the smell of bread baking or meat grilling. 

I love the smell, and understand searing a steak, but to my mind, coating beef chunks in flour and browning in oil only makes roux and toughens the meat’s surface. It’s a messy process with little reward. I see a lot of unneeded techniques passed on in recipes. I skip the browning step, and put my energy instead into enhancing the natural beef flavors with spices and umami ingredients. 

Pumping up flavor 

A French flavor base combining onion, carrot, and celery cut small to the same size is called mirepoix. I amplified it by first sautéing bacon cut into lardons — small matchsticks or cubes. When the bacon was crisp, I sautéd the onions, carrots, celery, and minced garlic. The onions and garlic lend umami flavors and sweetness. The carrots and celery bring sweetness with a touch of bitter, and the bacon a smoky depth. 


Except for black pepper, spices are often absent from American beef stews. This is a shame because the sweet spices have a long association with beef. Make sure your spices are fresh and grind them yourself right before using. You’ll hear this a lot from me, but it makes a world of difference in the quality of your cooking. 

Stout, chicory, or coffee 

A dark stout with some roasted chicory coffee or instant coffee is key to a dark roasted flavor, better than browning by far. The Port Townsend Brewing Co. makes an excellent stout, and of course, the stout of choice for this stew! 


A superb stew has plenty of tender meat, and a rich gravy for sopping up. The meat will be braised in the sauce, so it should include lots of umami flavors. 

Some of my ingredients may seem odd, but let me explain — raisins add sweetness with depth. Anchovy fish sauce is an umami secret weapon; Bragg Liquid Aminos are a favorite enhancer. Tomato paste adds acid, umami, and sweetness, while dried shiitake mushrooms are powerhouses. 

Oven braise or Instant Pot 

Either method of cooking will get you succulent beef, but I tend toward the Instant Pot because it’s convenient, and I like how tender the meat comes out.

Finishing touches 

Fresh salt and acid are required to bring the flavors of the food forward. The idea isn’t to make the food salty or sour, but add enough so your tongue will register the other flavors. Stew, as we know, is always best the next day when the flavors have melded.

Port Townsend  Stout Stew 

Serves 6

Instant Pot or Oven Braise  


¾ cup bacon, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil  

2 lbs chuck roast, cut into bite-sized pieces 

2 medium onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium carrots, cut into a small dice 

2 stalks celery, cut into a small dice

2 cups water  


1 pint Port Townsend Brewing Co. Stout 

½ cup raisins

6 dried shiitake mushrooms, crumbled 

¼ cup tomato paste 

2 teaspoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos, or soy sauce


2 teaspoons either roasted chicory coffee, or instant coffee

3 allspice berries

2 cloves

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 

¼ teaspoon black peppercorns 

To finish  

2 tablespoons potato starch 

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons sea salt

½ cup chopped parsley  

Roasted Parsnips and Potatoes

2 medium Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes, cut into a medium dice 

1 medium parsnip, cut the same size as the potatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil 

Sea Salt

2 teaspoons fresh or dried thyme 

Stew and Roasted Veggie Directions 

Grind the spices in a spice/coffee grinder. Puree the stout, raisins, dried shiitakes, tomato paste, fish sauce, and aminos with the dry spices until smooth.

Cut beef into bite-sized pieces.  

Heat the oil in the Instant Pot using the sauté function, or use a large sauté pan on a stovetop. Sauté the bacon in until almost crisp, add onions and continue for another eight minutes. Add the carrots and celery and sauté another five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another two to three minutes. 

Mix the water in with the beef and sauté with the sauce in the Instant Pot. Use high pressure for 25 minutes with a natural release. If you’re using an oven, the beef and sauce will go in a large covered casserole in a preheated oven set at 300F for 1½ to 2 hours or longer. When the meat is tender, it’s done. 

When the stew’s done, make a slurry with potato starch and ¼ cup cold water. Pour it into the hot stew and stir until it’s the consistency of cream. Stir in the vinegar and salt. Allow it to cool a little. The flavors will develop and settle.  

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, toss the cut potatoes and parsnips with oil, salt, and thyme. Roast in a 425F preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. 

Serve the stew with the roasted veggies over the gravy and meat with sprinkled parsley.  

(Sidonie Maroon is culinary educator at The Food Co-op; Follow Sidonie on The Food Co-op’s Facebook group, Cooking with the Co-op.)