One could say Michael Conneely, owner of the Peddler’s Daughter, is an expert in Irish Beef Stew. After all, he grew up at his mother’s elbow in Carraroe, Connemara, County Galway, watching as she turned tough, inexpensive cuts of meat into delicious, filling fare. And for two decades, he’s been serving up his own version to diners hungry for slow-cooked goodness.
“It was one of the first dishes we put on the menu,” Conneely recalls of his Haverhill location, which turns 20 next month. “It’s kind of a modern twist on the classic,” he says, noting that both Haverhill and his second location in Nashua, N.H., sell a lot of beef stew in the chilly months. In Haverhill alone, they serve about 20 gallons every week, cooked up in five-gallon batches.
Aside from sheer volume, one big difference between Conneely’s recipe and what he grew up with is Guinness beer – his beef is marinated overnight in that classic dark stout, then braised slowly in it the following day. He says it adds a nice smoky coffee-like depth to the stew, but it’s not something his mother would have dreamed of doing.
“Guinness was expensive,” Conneely says. “You’d only add Guinness on a special occasion, like Easter or when guests were coming.”
One thing both recipes share is a long slow simmer – Conneely says the biggest mistake people make when cooking a beef stew is not cooking it long enough. Another tip? Add fresh herbs at the end – at The Peddler’s Daughter, parsley is added 10 minutes before the stew is ready to serve. Speaking of serving, Conneely says this stew is even better the next day, making it the perfect thing to serve when entertaining. Whip it all up the day before, then gently reheat in your nice clean kitchen when guests arrive.
At The Peddler’s Daughter, they serve their beef stew topped with mashed potatoes, rather than cooking diced potatoes in the dish. It’s admittedly non-traditional, but adds a nice touch. If you’d like to do this at home, don’t add the potatoes listed below. Instead whip up your favorite mashed potato recipe just before serving.
Conneely expects to serve up a whole lot of beef stew this month. On St. Patrick’s Day, both restaurants open for classic Irish breakfast at 8 a.m., and offer up live music (and corned beef and cabbage) starting at 10 am.
Be forewarned – last year they opened at 8 am and were full up with a wait list less than a half hour later.
Prefer to skip the crowds? Cook up your own Irish Stew at home – and don’t skimp on the Guinness.
Guinness Beef Stew
By Matt Conneely, The Pedder’s Daughter
2 Pounds Stewing Beef (chuck)
1 pint Guinness
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 Onion, chopped
3 Celery sticks, sliced
3 Carrots, sliced
6 Potatoes cubed
Sprig rosemary chopped
Sprig thyme chopped
1 1⁄4 cups Veal stock
1 cup water
1 1⁄2 teaspoons
Salt & fresh pepper
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Marinate beef in Guinness for 24 hours. Remove beef from marinade and sprinkle with salt and pepper, but do not discard marinade. In a large heavy pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil. Add meat and brown on all sides for about 10 minutes, until medium rare. Remove meat from pan.
Add carrots, celery, and onions to pan and sauté for 5 minutes. Add water just to cover and cook for 15 minutes. Return the meat to the pan, add the reserved marinade, garlic, potatoes, tomato paste and veal stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 1 hour. Add diced fresh parsley and cornstarch 10 minutes before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve in a deep dish with homemade Irish soda bread and butter, sprinkle with more fresh parsley.