I love beef stew because it's open to so many variations, and you can really throw in whatever you have in the pantry. This version, which uses things I always have in my pantry, takes inspiration from the cuisine of Provence, which I have always loved because its terrain and climate are so similar to Southern California, and the flavors are the flavors I grew up with. It features a hefty dose of garlic, the use of a fruity wine, and the addition of anchovies as well as herbes de Provence, which is my favorite herb blend -- the version I like best contains basil, savory, fennel seeds and lavender flowers and smells like the markets in Provence. I garnished it with a little fresh fennel because I happened to have some on hand, but a little parsley wouldn't hurt, either. —Savour
stewing beef, cut into cubes
thick cut bacon
small carrots, scraped and cut into rounds
waxy potatoes, scrubbed but unpeeled, cut into chunks
small onion, cut into quarters
cloves garlic, minced
medium body fruity red wine, such as a Cotes de Rhone or a Provencal red
Place the flour and paprika with a pinch of salt into a large paper or plastic bag. Seal and shake to mix. Add the beef, half at a time, and shake until each piece of beef is coated with the flour mixture.
In a large hot skillet (preferably cast iron), fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon and set aside, leaving the bacon grease in the pan. Add olive oil to the pan.
Brown the beef in the oil and bacon grease mixture. Having a good brown on the beef is essential to the final flavor of the stew, so it's important a) not to crowd the beef in the pan (you'll have to brown the beef in multiple batches, depending on the size of your skillet) b) to let the beef sit and get a good sear before turning. I use tongs to turn each piece of beef individually after it has browned.
Place the browned beef with the reserved pieces of bacon into a heavy dutch oven with a lid. Add carrots, onion, potatoes, garlic, herbes de provence and a large pinch of salt to taste. Toss gently so that the mixture is fairly heterogeneous.
Meanwhile, deglaze your hot skillet with the red wine. Use a spatula to scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the skillet. Add tomato paste and anchovy paste, and stir until the mixture is combined.
Pour the mixture over the beef, salt lightly to taste, and cover with a lid.
Bake in a 300 degree oven until the meat is tender, usually about 3 hours, stirring occasionally. (Very occasionally. The fantastic smell makes me want to take a peep periodically, and I'll give it a stir while I'm doing so.)
Serve over noodles or with a nice crusty bread, some wine, and a green salad.
I'm a Los Angeles based home cook with a full time job and 2 young kids, so my recipes tend to be accessible to busy people. I firmly believe that anyone can cook good, everyday meals from scratch with sufficient tools and encouragement, and I try to create meals that are delicious, wholesome and not too intimidating. Most of my favorite recipes tend to be twists on a classic dish that makes it new and exciting.