Ice caves, ice roads, cross-country skiing, quinzee huts and dog sledding— all by-products of our fantastically cold and snowy winter. With the right amount of layering and warm boots, winter has secured a place in my heart with its abbreviated daylight and crystal clear, star strewn night sky. While there's nothing like the lazy days of summer with its 14 hours of sunshine, the shortened winter days are precious because the light is fleeting and night is so very long this time of year. Sub-zero temperatures and a 5 o'clock sunset turn my mind to comfort food and this crock of beef, cheese and beer, covered with buttery puff pastry, is the perfect companion to February in Bayfield.
Beefy Pies with Stilton & Stout
1 1/2 sticks butter
4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 1/2 large red onions, sliced
6 stalks of celery, thickly sliced
6 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
4 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
3 bottles of stout beer
3/4 cup flour
6 cups beef stock
1 (28 ounce) can of chopped tomatoes in purée
4 teaspoons Coleman's dry mustard
2 bay leaves
2 packages mushrooms, quartered
1 pound Stilton, crumbled
1 (16 ounce) package of frozen peas
2 packages of puff pastry (four sheets)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Heat 4 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan and brown the beef, in batches, on all sides and place in a large dutch oven. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the sauté pan, add the onions and sauté, over medium heat, for 10 minutes. Add the beer and garlic, raise the heat to medium high and cook until nearly dry, about 20 minutes. Add the flour to the onions and garlic, after the beer has reduced, and cook for 2 - 3 minutes. Slowly add 2 cups of beef stock and dry mustard and stir until thoroughly combined. Cook for 10 minutes, until slightly thickened. Place in the dutch oven with the beef. Add the carrots, celery, tomatoes, rosemary, bay leaves and 4 cups of stock to the dutch oven and simmer for 2 hours.
While the stew is simmering, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons in a large sauté pan and sauté mushrooms, over medium high heat, until softened and evenly browned. Set aside.
Right before the stew has finished simmering, roll out the puff pastries into 12 inch squares and cut ten 6 - 8 inch circles (depending on how large your individual crocks are), cover and set aside. Add the sautéed mushrooms, peas and crumbled Stilton to the stew and stir to combine.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Divide the beef mixture between the 10 individual crock or pie tins. Place the puff pastry circles on the crocks and press the edges to seal. Cut slits into the pastry and brush with beaten egg. Bake until browned, about 45 minutes. Serve immediately.