Even though the sunny clear sky and the crocuses pushing up optimistically in the front garden feel pretty confident its spring, if you go to the farmer’s market in NYC in early March it’s still dark days: no asparagus, no ramps, not yet, no doubt they are still fighting their way out of the cold, hard ground. So I wandered around looking for inspiration and came home with onions, potatoes, and a gorgeous Grazin’ Angus beef tip tenderloin (the guy at the stand waxed about as lyrical as you can about beef when he told me how his mother in law had recently prepared a similar cut). I picked up a couple of beers on the way home too.
I decided to turn these few ingredients into the fanciest stew I could create. When I was done it wouldn’t be stew anymore, it would be the much more exciting sounding “Beef braised in beer and molasses with mascarpone mashed potatoes”.
Slow cooked meats are really easy to make: a few minutes of heating oil, pushing the onions and garlic around and then you put in the meat, spices and liquids and leave it to cook for hours and hours – first covered and later, once the meat is tender, uncovered to thicken the sauce. I got the pot on the stove and had plenty of time to sit in the living room with my laptop, catching up on my feedly as the rich smell of braised beef filled the apartment.
So I’m sitting there feeling the comfort of comfort food even before I eat it, when I notice in my calendar that its A’s birthday. Exactly one year ago I was cooking a very similar dish – lamb tagine with prunes – for his birthday feast. Today we’re really not speaking after a slow sad breakup for all the right reasons, none of which included our not getting on really well all the time.
And thats why I’m here trying to cook and eat my way to comfort. Dark days indeed. But the beef and potatoes where really great, rich enough to almost make it all alright!
Beef braised in beer and molasses with mascarpone mashed potatoes
For the beef
- 3Tbs olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2lb stewing beef (I used a beef tip tenderloin), cut into large pieces, about 1″x2″
- 4 large carrots, halved and cut into 1″ pieces.
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 1/2 bottles of beer (I used a dark beer from Brooklyn Brewery)
- approx 2 1/2 cups beef stock (you will need enough to cover the meat)
- 3 Tbs tomato paste
- 3 Tbs molasses
Heat oil in a large, heavy pot, add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the beef, carrots, salt and pepper, beer and enough stock to cover about 1″ above the top of the meat in the pot. Cook, covered, on lowest heat for about 3-4 hours until the meat is soft. Stir in the molasses and tomato paste and adjust seasoning if required, then cook uncovered about 1 hour more, until the sauce is thick and rich in color.
For the potatoes
- 4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into even chunks, about 1″ long
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 cup mascarpone**
- 4 Tbs butter
- 1 tsp salt
**Note: If you want to make your own mascarpone, its pretty easy, just cream, lemon juice and some patience
Put the potatoes and garlic in a pot of cool salted water and bring to boil, cook until potatoes are fork tender then drain well. Mash with a potato masher or ricer until very smooth, add the mascarpone, butter and salt and blend well, to create a smooth, whipped texture which will harmonize beautifully with the braised beef!