Molly O'Neill's Old Fashioned Beef Stew

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(slightly adapted)

¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound beef stewing meat, trimmed and cut into inch cubes. I used beef round
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup red wine
3 cups beef broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large onion, peeled and chopped, about 2 cups
5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds, about 2 cups
2 large russet baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

Make the stew:
        Add the flour and pepper in a large Ziploc bag or bowl. Shake or stir to combine. Add the beef and shake or toss to coat well. Heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a large heavy, lidded pot, and add the beef, a few pieces at a time. Do it in 2 or 3 batches, so you don’t overcrowd the pot. Cook, turning the pieces until the beef is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Add more oil as needed.
        Remove the beef from the pot and add the vinegar and the wine. Cook over medium-high heat, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Slightly reduce the liquids, about 2 minutes. Add the beef, beef broth and bay leaves. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer.
        Cover and cook until the beef is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the onions and carrots and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Then add the potatoes and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes more. Add broth or water if the stew is dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
        If you would like a thicker sauce, you can combine the flour and butter into a paste. And just stir for a few minutes to let the flour/butter thicken the stew and cook out the raw flour taste. Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves. They’re not edible.

Makes 4 servings. YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Have your butcher do the dirty work for you. Ask him to cut the beef into one inch cubes, so they’ll be ready to go.
2. I like to mix the flour and pepper in a Ziploc bag, add the meat and shake to coat—much less mess.
3. Make sure to brown the meat in batches, keeping each piece separate from the next. If they’re all crowded in the pot, they’ll steam instead of brown.
4. This would make a GREAT pot pie too. I would add some frozen peas at the end, pour it into a baking dish, top with pie crust, and bake until the crust is golden brown. Sounds yummy to me.