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Easy beef stew recipe for hearty winter meal

Chunks of chuck roast, carrots, parsnip, and potatoes

Chunks of chuck roast, carrots, parsnip, and potatoes simmer for hours in broth and red wine. Credit: Marge Perry

Beef Bourguignon is the classic French beef stew. Julia Child chose to make it for her very first television episode as a way of introducing her audience to both French flavors and classic French cooking technique.

But: it is beef stew. Fancy name aside, it is the same concept as the dish our grandmothers made, the one that filled the house with the aroma of promise. It doesn’t require special ingredients or tricky culinary skill. You’ll need patience (because it cooks for a good long time), and just the most basic adherence to good cooking practices. In return, you get a savory, cozy dinner — one that is arguably even better leftover (so make plenty).

The recipe below takes some liberties. It is traditional to use bacon fat to brown the meat, then add the bits of bacon back to the stew. That certainly adds a hint of lovely smoky flavor, but the dish is spectacularly delicious even without it, so we use healthier oil. I’ve also increased the variety and quantity of vegetables, which I feel makes the dish more interesting — and makes it more of a complete meal.

The most important technique when making stew may be the browning of the meat. Be sure the meat is dry, and that you work in batches so it is not crowded in the pan. (Crowding will prevent you from getting a good browning, which enhances the deep, rich meaty flavor.) When you brown the meat, there are treasured browned bits left on the bottom of the pan; once you pour in the liquid ingredients, be sure to stir them up off the surface so they incorporate into your sauce.

Beef Bourguignon

2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut in 1-inch cubes

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided

3 tablespoons teaspoon olive oil, divided

2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 cups)

4 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup red wine, such as Burgundy, cabernet sauvignon or Zinfandel

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

3 cups unsalted beef or chicken broth

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

2 carrots, cut across in 1/2-inch slices

2 parsnips, halved lengthwise and cut across in 1/2-inch slices

12 ounces small red bliss potatoes, halved (about 7 potatoes)

12 ounces sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (1 large potato)

1. Season the beef with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high. Add half the meat to the pan and cook, turning occasionally, until well browned, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a plate; repeat with 1 more tablespoon of the oil and the remaining beef.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot. Stir in the onion, celery and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 7-8 minutes.

3. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring, 1 minute until the flour is no longer visible. Increase the heat to medium-high, pour in the wine, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce, then bring to a boil; cook, stirring, 2 minutes, using the spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the beef to the pan and add the broth, thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 1 hour.

3. Increase the heat to medium, uncover and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the carrots, parsnips and potatoes. Return to a simmer, cover, and again reduce the heat to medium-low: simmer until the potatoes are tender, another 30-35 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper (or to taste) and remove the bay leaves and herb sprigs.

Serves 8 to 10

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