Two things set this old-fashioned beef stew apart from its rivals: browning the beef in bacon fat and adding lots of vegetables to the pot, both of which add flavor to the velvety sauce. The result is comfort food, grandmother style. This grandmother didn’t cook with wine, but if you want to, substitute 1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz./375 ml) hearty red wine, such as Syrah or Zinfandel, for an equal amount of the beef stock.
Hearty Beef Stew
3 lb. (1.5 kg) boneless beef chuck
2 Tbs. canola oil
4 thick slices applewood-smoked bacon, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, cut into chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) lengths
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
6 Tbs. all-purpose flour
4 cups (32 fl. oz./1 l) beef stock or broth
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 lbs. (675 g) red-skinned potatoes
Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F (165°C). Cut the beef into 1 1/2-inch (4-cm) cubes and set aside. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the oil. Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is crisp and browned, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and set aside. Pour the fat into a heatproof bowl. Return 2 Tbs. of the fat to the pot and heat over medium-high heat. Season the beef cubes with salt and pepper. In batches to avoid crowding, add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer the beef to a plate.
Add another 2 Tbs. of the fat to the pot and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter and let it melt. Sprinkle with the flour and stir well. Gradually stir in the stock, and then stir in the tomato paste, the 1 Tbs. parsley and the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Return the beef to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover, place in the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Cut the unpeeled potatoes into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes, add them to the pot, stir, re-cover and continue cooking until both the meat and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes more. Season the stew with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley and the reserved bacon. Serves 6.
Find tantalizing recipes for timeless favorites in this new edition of Williams-Sonoma
Comfort Food: Recipes for Classic Dishes & More, by Rick Rodgers.