All growing up, a good friend of ours used to host a party at her house on the afternoon of New Year’s Day.  It was so nice to gather after the rush of Christmas and the craziness of New Year’s Eve, and just chat, put together puzzles, watch football, whatever.  It was such a relaxing way to celebrate the end of the holidays.

It was potluck, but she would always make this amazing pot of stew.  My stew is not the same as hers, but I have tried to carry on her tradition with my own recipe.

beef stew

2 1/2 pounds (about a kilo) beef, cut in bite size pieces
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
5-6 large carrots, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 4 inch piece of orange zest (use a vegetable peeler)
1 cup of red wine (I actually just use a red juice, such as grape or pomegranate, plus a splash of balsamic vinegar)
2-3 (500-750g) cups good quality chicken stock
5-6 medium potatoes, chopped
1 28 ounce (800g) can diced tomatoes

1.  Toss beef in a bit of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat.  Working in small batches, brown the beef.  As each batch is browned and caramelized, use a slotted spoon and remove to a plate.  Set aside.
2.  If needed, add a little more olive oil to the pan, and throw in the onions.  Reduce heat to low.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the onions to prevent burning, and add in the carrots and thyme.  Cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the onions are tender.  Stir in garlic and cook a minute more.  Add in the wine (or juice and vinegar) and chicken stock.  Stir in potatoes and tomatoes, add beef back in, and simmer on very low heat for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove orange zest and thyme sprigs.
3.  If, at the end of the 3 hour simmer, the carrots and potatoes are still firm, and the broth is not thickened, Increase the heat to high and boil rapidly until potatoes and carrots are tender.  If the broth is still not thickened, fish out about 5-10 pieces of potato, mash them with a fork, and then return them to the pot.

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