This Winter Beef Stew is far superior to any beef stew I have ever had. The chunks of beef are braised with red wine, balsamic vinegar, fresh herbs, and large pieces of carrots and celery. After two and a half hours in the oven, the beef and cooking liquid is full of flavor and lovely aromatics. I pour everything through a colander and reserve the juice and beef.
The carrots and potatoes are cooked in the stew during the last hour. I prefer this because the carrots retain their sweetness. If you can stand it, make this the day before because this stew gets better and better the longer it sits.
5 pounds boneless beef chuck (not lean), cut into 2-inch pieces (or look for well-marbled stew meat)
Kosher salt and pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
1 teaspoon onion powder (optional)
3 tablespoons olive oil (I like California Olive Ranch every day evoo)
3 carrots, quartered
3 celery ribs, quartered (leaves and all)
2 yellow onions, quartered
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
6 ounce can of tomato paste
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine (about 3 3/4 cups, please use the good stuff!)
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
3 cups beef broth (I use Better Than Bouillon Beef paste mixed with water)
3 cups water
For potatoes and carrots:
2 1/2 pounds small white boiling potatoes
1 1/2 pounds carrots
Preheat oven to 350°F with the rack set in the middle.
If you purchased a whole roast, pat the meat dry and first cut into one or two-inch pieces, bite-sized. Toss the chunks of meat in a bowl with two teaspoons salt, one teaspoon pepper, one teaspoon onion powder, and one teaspoon of garlic powder. Once the beef is well seasoned, toss in a handful of flour to mix. Add more if needed, all the pieces need a light coating. These are the same steps I would take to prepare a roast.
Sear beef in batches
Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Working in three batches, add the meat and turn brown each side. Searing all the beef should take you about eight minutes per batch. Move each browned batch of beef to a platter once it finished.
Large chunk vegetables
Reduce the heat to medium, then add the large chunks of carrots, celery, onions, and garlic and cook, occasionally stirring, until well browned, about twelve minutes.
Push the vegetables to one side of the pot and add tomato paste to the cleared area and cook, stirring for at least two minutes until the paste turns brick red. Next, mix the vegetables and the paste together. You should have a lot of brown bits, called fond, stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Add the vinegar to the pot next and using a wooden spoon scrape up all the brown bits of flavor off the bottom of the pan. Deglazing the pot should take about two minutes. The vinegar will thicken and bubble violently.
Next, add the bottle of good red wine that you have obviously tasted to make sure it's good. Add the bay leaf and thyme and boil for ten to twelve minutes. The wine will reduce by about two thirds.
Add the chunks of beef and any juices that have accumulated on the plate back to the simmering pot. Add the beef broth and as much of the water that will fit in the pot, sometimes I don't have room for the full three cups.
Cover and braise in the oven until meat is very tender, about two and a half hours.
Set a large bowl in the sink and top with a large colander. Carefully pour the stew into the colander. The large bowl should catch all the juices. The colander will catch all the chunks.
Let the cooking liquid stand for ten minutes while you pick out the beef pieces.
It may pain you, but we are throwing out the vegetables.
Cook potatoes and carrots:
While the beef is braising in the oven, peel the potatoes and cut into half-inch wedges. Slice the carrots diagonally into one-inch rings.
Pull it all together
Return the cooking liquid to the dutch oven and place over medium heat on the stove. Add the braised beef back to the pot along with the potatoes and carrots. Simmer uncovered, occasionally stirring for forty minutes to an hour.
If you can stand it, let the stew cool and place it in the fridge overnight. This stew definitely gets better and better as it sits.