Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dark n Stormy Stew

"It was a dark and stormy night." Remember Snoopy at his typewriter, sitting atop his doghouse, clicking out that cliched opening line to his novel? That thought may have just brought a smile to your face, it certainly does to mine.

You may not know (then again, you might just be hip to it already!), but there's another kind of Dark n Stormy that brings a smile, too...the classic cocktail of dark rum, ginger beer and lime by the same name. Not only that, there's Dark n Stormy Stew, too. Yep, why not put the same flavors that work as a cocktail into a rich, hearty and spicy beef crockpot-simple stew? No reason not I did!

Rum and ginger paired perfectly to make a satisfying winter stew loaded with butternut squash, pearl onions, fingerling potatoes and lots of savory gravy redolent with ginger, clove and allspice to echo the spice notes of fine dark rum and good ginger beer. As the stew simmered slowly over the hours, flavors melded into such a conglomeration of sweet, savory, gingery, rummy goodness that even butternut squash became as one with the sauce.

What do you accent the inspirational cocktail with? Lime. And there's no more proper finish to the stew either than bright and fresh lime. Just as the green citrus fruit perks up the dark sweetness of the cocktail, freshly grated lime zest and a hefty squeeze of a lime wedge do the same thing for this savory stew. Lime and gingery beef stew may sound like an odd combo, but trust me...the accent of lime takes the party to new heights.

As for the perfect cocktail pairing? A Dark n Stormy, of course! Here's the recipe for BOTH the stew AND the cocktail.

Dark n Stormy Stew

  • 2 T canola oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds beef flapsteak (that's what I had in the freezer - use your own favorite, tender stew beef)
  • 2 1/2 C butternut squash, cubed - you know I use the already peeled and cubed squash the grocer conveniently has waiting in plastic tubs in the produce section (repurpose the plastic...wash it out and use it to store cookies!)
  • 12 oz bag of frozen pearl onions (hey...if YOU want to go to the trouble of peeling all those teeny, tiny fresh pearl onions, go ahead....we'll wait for you to catch up....)
  • 2 pounds fingerling potatoes, cut in half 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 t. ground cloves
  • 1 t. powdered ginger
  • 1/2 t. allspice
  • 1/2 C dark rum - I used Meyer's
  • 7 oz bottle ginger beer - I use Fever Tree
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 5 oz. (1/2 a can) beef broth
  • 2 limes - 1 zested, 1 cut into wedges

To get good deep beefy flavors going in a crockpot stew, you know I always like to start by browning the meat in a skillet - that's where we're starting this time, too.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. While the oil is heating, season the beef liberally with salt and pepper. Brown the beef cubes in 2 batches. Remove each to the waiting crockpot.

Add the rum to the skillet and stir well to get all those browned bits into the rum. Set aside.

Add the squash, onions and potatoes along with the spices to the crockpot and give it all a good stir. Pour the rum that's still in the skillet and a bottle of ginger beer over the contents of the crockpot. Cover.

Start the crockpot on high and cook for an hour, then lower the temp to low (my crockpot only has settings of "off" "low" and "high.") and continue cooking 4-5 hours until the beef is tender and the squash has nearly disintegrated - it becomes part of the rich sauce.

To thicken the gravy, mix 2 T cornstarch with half a can (5 oz) beef broth and stir into the stew. It will thicken in minutes.

To Serve: Ladle the stew into bowls, sprinkle a little lime zest over each and serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze over the top. 

Classic Dark and Stormy - The Cocktail

  • 2 oz dark rum - Gosling's preferred
  • 3 oz. ginger beer - Fever Tree or the excellent Pittsburgh-made Jamaica's Finest by Natrona Bottling
  • a nice big lime wedge

In a collins glass filled with ice, add the rum and top with ginger beer. Add lime juice, stir gently and serve.

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