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BEEF STEW (COOKING SCHOOL)
4 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, sliced
1 large sweet potato, in 3/4-inch cubes (optional)
1/2 lb. large carrots, cut into medium dice or 1/4-inch coins
2 to 3 lbs. potatoes, in 1-inch cubes
1 stalk celery, cut into medium dice
5 large garlic cloves, minced
1 or 2 bay leaves
few sprigs fresh thyme and parsley, chopped
cracked black pepper, to taste
2-3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon each onion and garlic powder
1 quart low sodium beef stock
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup red wine (optional)

Sprinkle the beef cubes lightly with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour.

In a large Dutch oven, saut for five minutes in olive oil (add a tablespoon of butter for better browning if you like), then add the sliced onions and continue to cook over medium high heat until the cubes are browned; add the garlic during the last few minutes of browning, not allowing them to burn.

If using wine, add the wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot, otherwise simply cover the beef cubes with water. Add seasonings and celery.

Cover, reduce heat until stew is barely simmering, but just steaming hot. Do not boil. About an hour before serving, add the sweet potatoes.

When beef is nearly but not quite as tender as you like it, add the carrots and whites potatoes and continue to cook for another 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Stir in the beef broth and ketchup 30 minutes before serving. I like to add this at the end to avoid an overcooked taste. If you prefer the stock to be thickened, add a few tablespoons of all-purpose flour or Wondra flour to the beef broth and stir until smooth before adding to the stew.

A few minutes before serving, taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt, pepper, beef bouillon or soup base, onion and garlic powder, a pinch of cayenne pepper, another pinch of thyme, etc. to perk up the flavor if you think it's needed. Don't overdo the seasonings!

Variations:

To make Irish Stew, use lamb instead of beef.

For Italian Beef Stew, start the stew with diced 1/8-inch cubes of Sopressato sausage, lean salt pork or pancetta sauteed in the olive oil; add oregano, basil, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a few dark greens, and garbanzo or cannelini beans and some cooked penne pasta. Substitute pasta sauce or salsa for the ketchup. 15 minutes before serving, you may add a can of petite diced tomatoes or use fresh chopped tomatoes when available.

For Cuban Beef Stew, add kale and cooked black beans, and 1/2 tsp. ground cumin and taco seasoning or Goya Sazon and cayenne.

Beef Stew may be made in the Crock-Pot, but for the best results, be sure your Crock-Pot doesn't boil; it should simmer lightly or the liquid should only be steaming hot (with the cover on). Boiling will make the beef stringy and dry, will ruin the flavor of the broth and make the vegetables mushy - the results will be like stew from a can. Some Crock-Pots have probes which will allow you to set the desired temperature.

When using a Crock-Pot for beef stew, take an extra step for flavor and brown the floured beef cubes in oil before transferring them to the Crock-Pot. Then add all the vegetables at the beginning; set the Crock-Pot to 170-190F and leave to cook from 5-8 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender.

Submitted by: CM
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