A simple dish, full of wonderful aromas and flavors.

4 lbs potatoes. 3 lbs beef roast, 1 1/2" cubes 4 pieces bacon. 1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled 1 1/2 lbs celery, 2 vidalia onions, about the size of my fist. If you don't have my fist handy, your fist will do. Kosher salt Black peppercorns, some cracked, some whole. saffron, fresh ground, 2 pinches for the entire stew. peel of 1/4 orange rind beef stock, 4 cups. Beer, 2 bottles. Never cook with anything you wouldn't drink. I recommend Dixie's Blackened Voodoo. But just use a strong flavorful beer.

Peel and quarter half of the potatoes. Put them in an 8 quart stock pot, and cover with 2 cups beef stock, and the rest water. Barely cover them. Bring it to a boil, and cook until the potatoes crumble when they are poked. It'll take a while, be patient. Then reduce the heat, and add 1/2 of the carrots, celery and onions. use big chunks of vegatables. save the other half for of them for later. Cover with a beer and more stock. Add spices to taste. Simmer for an hour, and then add the rest of the potatoes. In a skillet, render the bacon. Eat your bacon once its cooked. Its not going in the stew. In the bacon fat, sear, but don't cook, all the way, your cubed beef. Do it in batches, because there's just a lot of beef. Add the seared beef to the stock pot. Deglaze the skillet with a can of beer and the kosher salt. The salt will act abrasive, and help get the good chunks of seared beef from the bottom and sides of the skillet. Add that to the stock and simmer for an hour. add the rest of the carrots, onions, and celery. Spice to taste. Simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, and its ready to go.

Serve with egg noodles, and crusty bread and butter.

Similar in staples to the recipe above, but with a totally different base... and my favorite version. Makes 4 generous servings.

In a large skillet combine to make your base stock, which is VERY concentrated:

2 carrots, minced
2 sticks celery, minced very fine
1/2 cup mushrooms, minced very fine
1/4 stick butter
1 cup water
Handful salt (preferably sea or kosher)--this dehydrates the veggies and brings the liquid out into the stock.

Bring to a boil, reduce to medium heat, cover and let simmer until the liquid is pale yellow-green and the veggies are fully cooked and reduced. Add water if necessary.

While that's going on, combine the following in a LARGE pot:

3 or 4 potatoes, large cubes
4 stems celery, large chunks
3 or 4 carrots, large chunks
1/2 onion, or 6-8 pearl onions, large pieces
2 or 3 cloves garlic, good-sized pieces
1/2 cup (dry) pearled or quick-cook barley
1 cup red wine
3 cups water
Parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, salt to taste--enough of each to see it floating on the surface of the stew.
1-2 bay leaves if desired. (I don't like them.) Remove bay before serving.

(Any other veggies you might choose to add, like cauliflower or green beans or peas are also tasty and awesome.)

By the time you're done with this, the broth should be more or less reduced. Pour it ALL into the big saucepan, veggie chunks, broth, and all. Clean your skillet.

Flour 1 to 1.5 pounds of stew meat cubes and brown lightly in oil, a few at a time. Lift them into the stewpot; you don't really want to drain the oil into your stew.

Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce to low simmer, and cook for 60-90 minutes, until meat is tender and veggies are done. The meat is more important than the veggies--overcooked vegetables in a stew are all right, tough meat isn't.

If the barley and potatoes did not provide enough natural starch and your stew is still pretty watery, resolve as so:

spoon about 1/2 cups full of broth out into something heatproof and add:
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Blend or whisk into broth until WELL mixed, then spoon in a bit more broth to bring thickener back to temperature. Carefully mix back into the stew pot and bring to a boil.

Stew is now done and can be served immediately, or kept warm on the stove for a while. If you do this, you MAY need to add a little more water if it gets too thick.

Makes a wonderful meal all on its own, but can be served with french bread, rolls, or a salad. Or serve it in a big crusty sourdough loaf bread bowl. That rocks.

The barley continues to soak up water overnight, you may need to add some more water to the stew when you reheat any leftovers the next day.

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