Sometimes you just want something wrong. Devoid of all vegetable matter and any worthwhile dietary value, full of everything you’ve been told will hasten your inevitable demise. It might be pizza, it might be macaroni and cheese, it might be a bowl full of nothing but beef and carbs. And that’s exactly what this is. No greenery, whole grains, or vegetables to get in the way. Just mouthwateringly tender beef, beer, and flaky puff pastry, tasting every bit as good as it looks and sounds. Toss aside the Weight Watchers pamphlet, ignore the Lose It app (for one day, anyway), and give in.
Recipe adapted from Epicurious. As below, it makes 4 servings.
• 2 lbs. beef chuck, cut into cubes: $5.98
• 1 onion, chopped: 10 cents
• 2 T vegetable oil: 6 cents
• 2 garlic cloves, minced: 2 cents
• 2 T tomato paste: 15 cents
• 1/4 cup flour: 5 cents
• 1 cup Guinness: $1.15
• 2 thyme sprigs (garden): $0
• 1 cup beef broth: 7 cents
• 1 T worcestershire sauce: 5 cents
• 4 puff pastry squares (BIGTIME cheating, on all levels: I had a reporting assignment to write about an Eastern European grocery store, during which I bought a package of puff pastry knowing I would never, ever buy it under normal circumstances and could expense it to the paper. I admit I’ve never done it, but here’s how to make it yourself for pennies): $0
• Salt & pepper: 2 cents
TOTAL: $7.65/4 = $1.91/each
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour.
Heat the oil in a dutch oven or heavy soup pot with lid over medium-high heat. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, brown the beef cubes on all sides, setting aside each batch in a bowl. Add the onion and about 3 T of water (or more, if needed) to deglaze the pot, scraping up all the browned bits. Cook until onion is translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the tomato paste, stir for about a minute or so, then add the thyme sprigs, worcestershire sauce, beef broth, Guinness, reserved beef cubes with any accumulated juices, and salt to taste.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and bake for 2 1/2 hours, until beef is very tender.
Remove from the oven and cool completely, so the hot stew doesn’t melt the puff pastry topping before it bakes.
When cooled, portion the stew into 4 ramekins. (They can be deep or wide.) Preheat oven to 425 F.
If using frozen puff pastry, defrost just until pliable. My puff pastry came pre-cut in little squares, so I just plopped them over the ramekins as-is, without reading the directions, which apparently would’ve had me roll them out first. I’m no puff pastry expert, obviously, so use your discretion.
For both fresh and frozen puff pastry, fold over the tops of the ramekins and chill in freezer until oven is preheated. Place the pastry-topped ramekins on a cookie sheet (some of the stew will probably bubble over) and bake for 20 minutes at 425 F, then 5 minutes at 400 F to cook through.
Carefully remove from the oven and cookie sheet and serve.
Leftover pies can be covered carefully in foil and kept in the fridge.
If you have any extra puff pastry squares, make turnovers for tomorrow’s breakfast: Put about 1 T jam in the middle of each square, fold them over, seal the edges, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Let sit for about 10 minutes before eating; I learned the hard way that the jam will be molten.