There is beef stew and then there is beef stew. There is the perfectly nice man sitting across from you on the subway whom you have about as much feelings for as insert in the Sunday paper, and there is the man that makes your knees weak and you stay on the train two extra stops until you get up the nerve to introduce yourself, because he is just that good.
You say what you want, but that happened to me with the man (except it was a plane) and it happened to me with beef stew which that same man ordered for me at some cheap cafeteria outside Paris. Pour beef stew out of a can and call yourself not hungry, but buy yourself a beautiful bottle of red wine and use it for the stew, and you’ll be sitting down for dinner and getting up not only full but happy. If you have to eat every day, you may as well make it work for you.
Start with a soffritto of 1/2 a pound of peeled carrot, 1 onion and the inside stalks of celery, cut into a medium dice. Cook them in olive oil over low to medium heat with four whole cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of fresh thyme until they are caramelized and absolutely delicious (about 20 minutes). Remove from the pan and set aside. Pour in a little more olive oil. (If you like mushrooms, you can add those to the pan now, brown them off, season with a little salt, and then get the pan ready again for the browning of the meat.) Season about 2 pounds of boneless chuck cut into 1 inch pieces on all sides and then brown off with the intent of getting every piece on every side a deep brown. Remove the meat from the pan and set it on top of the vegetables. Add 1 cup of deep red gorgeous wine to the pan to deglaze, simmering for about 8 minutes. Add 1 cup of whole tomatoes that you have squeezed through your hands and another cup of homemade stock. Bring to a simmer. Taste for salt and freshly ground pepper. Dont’ go overboard with the seasonings, because the liquid will continue to reduce. Add the meat and the vegetables, and cover the pan, with the lid set ajar. Either stick the whole thing in the oven at 350 degrees, or set it on the stove for about 2 hours until the meat is tender. After the first hour and a half, add three peeled and chopped potatoes (about 1 inch pieces). Serve on it’s own with four or five candles on the table and a glass of wine.