So, Kristen, I have pulled two beef stew recipes for you. This is the plain old beef stew, my adaptation of a Betty Crocker recipe, and there is nothing "plain old" about it:
Plain Old Beef Stew
1 pound stew beef, cut into 1/2" cubes 1 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1 onion, cut into 8 or so wedges 1 tsp. salt
8 oz. baby carrots 1 tsp. sugar
14 oz. can diced tomatoes (plus juice) 1 tsp. marjoram
14 oz. beef broth 1/4 tsp. pepper
8 oz. tomato sauce 1 and 1/2 lb. small red potatoes,
1/3 c. flour quartered
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In large, ovenproof pot (Dutch oven is ideal), mix everything together except potatoes. Cover and bake 2 hours, stirring after an hour. Add potatoes. Cover and bake another hour to hour and a half, until beef and veggies are tender. Serves 8.
You can also do this in a slow cooker by coating the beef in additional flour and browning in a little oil. Then, throw everything in together, cover, and cook on low 8-9 hours.
This stew will be good. However, my favorite beef stew to make, one I have made for a number of occasions, including, at Jeannene's request, her birthday dinner. It is a great beef stew to have for company and is especially nice accompanied by or over mashed potatoes. It is better known by its fancy French name, but don't let that intimidate you. Here, my favorite stew and one of my favorite ever recipes, is my rendition of Ina Garten's phenomenal Boeuf Bourguignon. I used to be freaked out by the idea of flaming it, thinking I would set myself, the stove, the house on fire. Finally, my curiosity about whether it really makes any difference won out over my trepidation. It does make a difference and I did not set anything but the stew alight. The bacon, in case you're wondering, also matters. But doesn't it always?
1 tbsp. olive oil 2 to 2 and a half cups beef broth
8 oz. good bacon, diced 1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 1/2 lb. beef chuck, in 1" cubes 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (you can
Salt and pepper cheat and use 1 tbsp. dried)
1 lb. carrots, sliced diagonally in chunks 1/2 stick butter, room temp
2 onions, peeled and sliced 3 tbsp. flour
2-4 cloves chopped garlic 1 lb. pearl onions (frozen is fine)
1/2 c. Cognac or good brandy 1 lb. mushroom caps, thickly sliced
1 bottle good dry red wine, preferably burgundy
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil in large ovenproof pot (again, a Dutch oven is preferred, but not required). Add the bacon and cook on medium for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Take out of pan with slotted spoon and drain on a plate. Pat the beef cubes dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt & pepper. In batches, keeping beef in a single layer, cook in hot oil & bacon grease until browned on all sides. Remove to plate with bacon. Add carrots, onions, 1 tbsp. salt, and 2 tsp. pepper to pot and cook on medium about 10 minutes, until onions are lightly browned. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, making sure not to burn. Add Cognac, stand back (not kidding), and ignite with a long match. Allow alcohol to burn off, then add beef and bacon back into pot with any juices that have pooled on the plate. Add the wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a boil , cover, & bake about 75 minutes, until meat and vegetables are very tender. Remove from oven and place atop the stove. Mix 2 tbsp. butter with flour, using a fork, and stir into the stew. Add onions. In a medium pan, saute the mushrooms in 2 tbsp. butter until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add to stew and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings & serve. Serves 6.