The winter months always has me craving comfort foods including this Steak & Ale Pie. My friend, David Ort is quite the beer expert in Canada and has gone on to publish The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook. I asked David to share a fitting recipe for the season and I seriously can’t wait to try this Steak & Ale Pie recipe on the weekend.
By: David Ort
What inspired this dish?
In general, with my cookbook’s recipes I wanted to introduce readers to new ideas. For the cases, like the steak and ale pie, where we were cooking from the back catalogue of beer-food classics there had to be at least a couple stand-out techniques or ingredients that I thought would add something. The obvious one here is the cheesy biscuit topping (leavened partly with beer) that is miles easier than making a traditional pie crust. Adding pickled onions to the beef stew half of the pie is more subtle, but also more essential to the recipe. The added acidity really brightens an otherwise fairly rich dish and also helps support the brown ale pairing.
This pub classic is a good candidate for a lazy Sunday afternoon at home. The aroma of slowly stewing beef is usually one of the most delicious smells that can fill a kitchen. Add bacon and pickled onions to the chorus and mouths will water for hours.
Recommended Beer: English brown ale 10W30 Brown Ale, Neustadt Springs Brewery (Ontario)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 4 hours
- 14–16 Pickled Onions or good-quality store-bought pickled onions
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) unsalted butter
- 2 lb (1 kg) beef (shin, oxtail or chuck), cubed and dusted with flour
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
- 2 cups (500 mL) English brown ale
- 2 cups (500 mL) beef broth (or chicken broth)
- 3–4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 12–14 cremini mushrooms, wiped with a damp paper towel and halved
- ½ cup (125 mL) frozen green peas
- 1 large carrot, peeled, cut in small dice
- freshly ground black pepper
- kosher salt to taste
- ½ cup (125 mL) milk
- 1 tsp (5 mL) lemon juice
- 8 Tbsp (120 mL) unsalted butter, melted
- 8½ oz (260 g) flour (about 2 cups/500 mL)
- 2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
- ½ tsp (2.5 mL) baking soda
- 1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt
- 2¼ oz (68 g) shredded cheddar cheese (about ½ cup/125 mL)
- ½ cup (125 mL) English brown ale, cold
- Soak the pickled onions in ice water for between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on how wary you are of a slight vinegar edge to certain bites.
- Heat your oven to 300°F (150°C); set a rack in the second-lowest position.
- Over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of the butter in an enamelled Dutch oven. Divide the beef into at least two batches and put the first batch into the pan once the butter stops foaming. Cook the beef until deep brown and caramelized, approximately 6 to 8 minutes, turning once or twice. Remove to a bowl and repeat with the second batch.
- Drain the onions and add to the fat in the Dutch oven along with the bacon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have started to brown and the bacon has rendered some of its fat, about 7 minutes. Remove the onions and bacon from the pan and pour the beer in to deglaze the pan. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan with a straight-edged wooden spoon. Add the browned beef, and the browned onions and cooked bacon, back to the Dutch oven. Add the broth, sprigs of thyme and bay leaf. Cover the Dutch oven and move it to the heated oven.
- Cook with the lid on for 2 hours. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven and cook, uncovered, for another hour.
- Meanwhile, melt the remaining tablespoon (15 mL) of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter has just started to darken, add the mushrooms and toss to coat. Sauté until they have shrunk noticeably and turned dark golden brown. Set aside.
- To prepare the biscuit topping, in a medium bowl, whisk the milk and lemon juice together and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes so that the milk clabbers. Melt the butter and let cool slightly. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cheese. Add the melted butter and the beer to the clabbered milk, and stir. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and use a wide spatula to fold them together until just combined.
- At the end of the hour of uncovered cooking, remove the thyme and bay leaf from the Dutch oven. Increase the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C). Add a few grinds of black pepper and taste the sauce for seasoning. If necessary, add a large pinch of kosher salt. Stir the frozen peas, diced carrots and sautéed mushrooms in with the meat.
- Use a 1/4-cup (60 mL) disher or ice cream scoop to drop dollops of the biscuit batter on top. Leave some space between the biscuits for steam to escape. Return the pot to the oven and cook for 45 more minutes.
- Let the pie stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
Note If you don’t make your own pickled onions, good-quality cocktail onions will do fine, but pickled cippolini are even better.
David Ort has been writing about food and drink in Toronto for over five years. His first cookbook, The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook is a collection of 75 of his own recipes that make delicious food to celebrate full-flavoured beer. It was published in late 2013 by Whitecap Books, was named one of the Globe & Mail’s top 20 cookbooks of the year, and has spent more than 100 days on Amazon’s top 100 cookbooks list.
David is currently a freelance food, drink, and travel writer and covers Toronto’s restaurant, event, and retail scene as Post City Magazine’s web editor. Find his writing at davidort.com or follow him on Twitter @ortdavid.