Once it becomes cold and fall-like, the first thing I want to make is beef stew.  We have some wacky weather here in New England, one day it’s 50, the next it’s 70.  The day I finally got around to making my stew (as someone accidentally put the beef in the freezer when we got home from the store), it was warmer out than I had wanted.  But that wasn’t going to stop me from making this stew.

A few years ago I had an alright stew recipe, but it was nothing fancy, kind of watery, and just so so.  I always make beef stew for our annual Chrismahaunakwanzika party (the stew idea totally lifted from my good friend’s Autumn Party), and this past year I was able to try out a new one, that I liked a lot better.

I can’t remember how I found this recipe, it’s a Barefoot Contessa one, so I might have watched her make it on tv and said “Oh my goodness, I need to try this.”  Beef stew is slightly labor intensive (this one you need to start the night before, so it’s not much of a spontaneous dish), but the end result is so worth it, especially with a nice loaf of crusty bread.

2 1/2 pounds good quality chuck beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 (750-ml bottle) good red wine
2 whole garlic cloves, smashed
3 bay leaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Good olive oil
2 yellow onions, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally in 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 pound small potatoes, halved or quartered
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 cups or 1 (14 1/2-ounce can) chicken stock or broth
1 large (or 2 small) branch fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas

Place the beef in a bowl with red wine, garlic, and bay leaves. Place in the refrigerator and marinate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine the flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper. Lift the beef out of the marinade with a slotted spoon and discard the bay leaves and garlic, saving the marinade. In batches, dredge the cubes of beef in the flour mixture and then shake off the excess. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and brown half the beef over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Place the beef in a large oven-proof Dutch oven and continue to brown the remaining beef, adding oil as necessary. (If the beef is very lean, you’ll need more oil.) Place all the beef in the Dutch oven.

Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil to the large pot and add the onions, carrots, and potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Place all the vegetables in the Dutch oven over the beef. Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved marinade to the empty pot and cook over high heat to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken stock, rosemary, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper.

Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over medium heat on top of the stove. Cover the pot and place it in the oven to bake it for about 2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are all tender, stirring once during cooking. If the stew is boiling rather than simmering, lower the heat to 250 or 275 degrees F.

Before serving, stir in the frozen peas, season to taste, and serve hot.