"It does if you leave it on the stove long enough."
That's a joke from the "What's a Henway?" era of my childhood.
Anyway, last night I made the best stew ever and I wanted to share it. It's modified from a recipe I found online. I added more bay leaves, switched out some of the potatoes for sweet potatoes, added a shallot and peas, and roasted the vegetables instead of frying them. And I replaced the butter with olive oil. The basic ingredients are:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 and 1/4 pounds stew beef (cut in small pieces)
6 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
8 bay leaves
2 large sweet potatoes
1 regular potato
Olive oil (for brushing the vegetables)
1 large onion
2 cups peeled and chopped carrots
1 cup frozen peas
The first thing I did was heat the oven to 450 and peel and slice all the vegetables--except the garlic and peas. (I took the peas out of the freezer to let them thaw.) I loaded up 2 tin baking trays with the vegetables and (very) lightly coated them with olive oil.
I tried out my food processor's slicing feature for the first time. It worked really well but sliced very thin, so I only did about half the carrots, a sweet potato and part of the onion this way. The rest I sliced more thickly.
On the first tray, I put 6 bay leaves and a light sprinkling of kosher salt on top. The other one I left plain (except for the olive oil). After a while, the bay leaves started smoking, so I took them off eventually...but they made the kitchen smell really good.
While those roasted, Guy cooked the stew beef. He heated the vegetable oil in a cast iron pan on medium-high heat before adding the meat, then cooked until brown, about 5 minutes.
I then transferred the meat to our large Le Crueset pot and pushed it to the sides so that I could saute the garlic in the middle of the pot for about one minute. I added the beef stock, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and 2 bay leaves, and stirred. The original recipe said "bring to a boil" but I've noticed that it takes a really long time for anything to boil in the Le Crueset so I just waited until it seemed hot and then reduced the heat to medium-low, covered it and simmered for an hour, stirring occasionally.
At some point, I turned off the oven and let the vegetables sit in the oven until it was time to add them to the stew. After the beef had cooked for an hour, I added the roasted vegetables and peas and simmered the stew uncovered for 40 minutes until it thickened.