Lets get one thing straight. I have oodles of respect for those feastocrats who have these beautiful books full of recipes. But, recipes and I don't tend to get along so well.
Here at Stewpendous, we do things a little differently.
For a classic Stewpendous beef stew, I start with a pile of decent stew meat. For the HUGE batches for Order of the List, I use about 5-7 pounds of beef. I let the beef soak for a half day or so in red wine, garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper, and what ever else catches my fancy. Then I usually drink the rest of the wine, so it won't go bad. Remember, never cook with wine you wouldn't drink. For this reason, I usually cook with Merlots or Pinot Noirs.
After a good wine soak (for me and the meat) the beef gets removed from the marinade, drained well, and dredged through some mix of flour, salt, pepper, rosemary, sage, and garlic powder- mostly flour.
Shake off the extra, and take your biggest stock pot. Heat up some butter, duck fat, or bacon fat.
When its nice and hot, brown your beef up with a couple finely diced onions and a couple cloves smashed garlic. For this portion, keep the onions pretty small. Once the beef is making your kitchen smell heavenly, you'll want to scrape the bottom of the pot really well. Im sure there's some fancy name for the delicious brown grunge you'll scrape up, but for me, its just the good stuff. If you have any left, a splash of wine can help you get every tasty bit up. Now, add your water or broth. Throw in some big onion chunks, a pile (I do equal meat and potato) of potato chunks (I leave skin on) and herbs. This is where cooking gets personal. Salt and pepper are sort of mandatory, really. Im a garlic lover, and think rosemary is just the best. When adding herbs, though, its often best to wait until a little later in the cooking process to add refining touches. Some herbs get bitter if you cook them too long.
From here, cover your pot, and get simmering. Seriously, just let it go. For a while. Find something else to do. Wrap a Yule present, write me a note saying you think I'm A-OK. Sip some more wine. Draw a picture, study some spell. Or go hit something, if you are a fighter. Make sure you stir every so often, make sure the pot isn't boiling. Slow and steady, this is no soup race. I usually leave my stew on the stove for 3-5 hours)
The longer it cooks, the more the potatoes will break down and add thickness to the stew. When you have an hour or so left, you can add carrots, celery, peas, or what ever you want. This is also the time to go full boar on your herbs. Fresh is best, if you can. If the broth is too watery, add some salt, and let the stock cook down with the lid off. If you want the stock a little thicker, mash up a couple of the potatoes, blend them with stock, and then mix it into the strew.
Get your trenchers ready, my dears. It's time to chow down.
There are no short cuts to a great stew. As with many things, it is a labor of Love. And I Love to feed you.
Stay warm and happy,