"It sounds absurdly simple
, but it is the point at which nine tenths of the stews in the world go wrong. The trouble is that few cooks realize how long it takes to brown meat thoroughly."
From Robert Farrar Capon's splendidly lofty, cranky, and idiosyncratic treatise of a book The Supper of the Lamb - worth a read for the sake of Braising Week and Easter, but good at any time.
More below on the heresy of flour and restoring the lost soul of your meat...
"(One note on a culinary heresy: People who flour their meat and brown it in butter are entitled to their religion. We live in a pluralistic society. I think it only fair to note, however, that such people have never gotten around to browning meat. All they have done is darkened some butter and scorched a little flour. The meat inside remains untouched. Accordingly, their stews never know the savor of the true burnt offering; in their haste they settle for the dubious pleasure of eating charred wheat.)
Even for a little stew like this, therefore, it will take fifteen minutes or so to do a good job of browning the meat. ... What leads most cooks into turning off the fire too soon is the fear of drying out the meat. Now clearly, there are dishes to which this fear is entirely appropriate; stew, however, is not one of them. It matters not how many juices run out of the meat during browning because they go nowhere but into the pot. Any drying that occurs is only temporary. The water that escapes as steam will be restored shortly by the stock and wine to be added. Your meat's lost soul will be replaced by a second and better one.
Do not be afraid, then, when some of the tinier scraps of lamb shrivel into brown crumbs."
And that's just the beginning of the book - truly worth a read for the robust language and great recipes too.