We didn't follow any specific recipe as we put this stew together. Instead, we fell back on techniques like searing and braising to get flavorful and tender meat, and then we tasted as we went until the stew was just right. To give the beef enough time to stew, we cook the meat first and then add the vegetables closer to the end of cooking.
Bottom round roasts come from the rear of the cow and are one of those great, cheap cuts of meat that benefit from long cooking. If you can't find bottom round or if another cut is cheaper, go for top round, eye round, chuck, or shoulder roast. All these cuts will work just as well as bottom round.
Classic Beef Stew
Portions can be frozen for up to 2 months
1.5 pound bottom round, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-sized chunks
6 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable stock or water
1 Tablespoon dried thyme
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
3 pounds red-skinned or Yukon potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces and held in cold water (skins left on or off, as you prefer)
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red or white wine (optional)
1 cup frozen corn (optional)
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk or cream (or stew broth if you don't want to use dairy)
1 Tablespoon salt, plus extra to taste
Pepper to taste
Set a 6-quart dutch oven or other large stew pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the cubes of beef with 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper. When the pot is hot, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil and enough beef cubes so that it's full, but there is a half inch of space around each cube. Do not stir the cubes. Shake the pot occasionally and the cubes will "unstick" as they finish searing. Continue searing until all sides are a dark golden brown, stirring as little as possible. Remove the cubes to a clean plate and sear the rest of the meat in batches.
With all the meat seared and removed to the plate, add one cup of broth to the pot to deglaze. Scrape the bottom of the pan to life up any pieces. When deglazed, add the meat back to the pot and add enough broth or water until the liquid is just below the surface of the meat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat and cover. Cook until a skewer inserted in one of the cubes can be easily pushed in but still encounters a little resistance, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables in a separate pan. Add one teaspoon of oil to a pan set over medium-high heat. Add the potatoes, onions, carrots, and celery and cook until the potatoes are just turning translucent around the edges and the onions are completely translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook until the paste as evenly coated the vegetables. Season with one teaspoon of salt. Remove from heat and set aside until the meat has cooked one hour.
After one hour, add the vegetables to the meat, adding more broth to cover. Simmer uncovered for another 40 - 60 minutes until the meat is very tender and falls apart when prodded with a fork. Stir in the wine, corn, and one teaspoon of salt. (If desired, you can deglaze the vegetable pan with the wine before adding it to the stew).
Whisk together the flour and milk to make a quick slurry. Add a little stew broth to the slurry and then add the slurry into the stew, whisking and then stirring until fully incorporated. And sure, you can add more cream if you want! Remove bay leaves, and add salt and pepper to taste. If the stew tastes a bit flat, add another teaspoon or two of Worcestershire sauce.
Serve in individual bowls with some nice, crusty bread alongside!
(Image: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)