This, for all intents and purposes, is a basic recipe for making a nice and flavorful beef stew. I prefer doing most of my roasts and stews in the oven, because they receive a more consistent, all around heat, than can be achieved on the stovetop. Plus it gives you the advantage of being able to put it in, and forget it.
Remove the roast from the refrigerator, then take a fork and pierce it all over. This is a great way to take out your frustrations, and trust me, the roast won't really mind.
Chef’s Note: The roast should have a lot of marbling. During the long cooking process, the fats will melt into the liquid; further enhancing the flavor of the broth and the veggies.
Mix the salt, pepper, paprika, and ground cumin in a small prep bow, and then thoroughly rub the mixture all over the roast.
Set the roast aside and allow to rest for about twenty minutes.
Chef's Note: This will give the spices a chance to be pulled into the meat. You could always wrap it in cling foil, and place it overnight in the refrigerator; however, with this recipe I saw little to no difference.
Chefs Note: Concerning the pan… It should be large enough to hold the roast and the other ingredients; however, not too big. I have several sizes of my favorite pans… cast iron pots, actually, and I choose a size that will just barely fit the roast.
If you have a really large pot, you're going to need a whole lot more broth to cover the roast, and that will dilute the overall flavor of the dish.
Add the onion halves, cut side down, and sear, until very brown, but NOT black.
Remove onion halves, and then add the sliced carrots. Toss about until they are slightly browned, and then set aside.
Chef’s Note: I wash my carrots, but I do not peel them… This gives the dish a more rustic appearance, and if beef stew is anything… it’s rustic.
The same holds true for the onion... When it comes out of the pot it will fall apart into layers, creating a rustic appearance.
Add the roast and sear all sides. Depending on the heat of your pan, about a minute per side.
Remove the roast, and deglaze the pan, using the red wine. Scrapping up all those good flavor bits (fonds) attached to the bottom of the pan.
Chef's Note: If you're not using the wine, then substitute it with the same amount of beef broth. However, since you won't have the braising properties that wine bring to the time in the oven, the dish will need to spend about an extra 30 minutes in the oven.
However, here's a trick... Add about 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to the broth before deglazing, and that will help with the breakdown of the beef while it slowly cooks.
Return the roast to the pan, and then add enough beef stock to cover the roast about halfway. Finally, add the onions, carrots, rosemary, and thyme
Tightly cover the pot, and then place in a preheated 285f (140c) on the middle rack.
Cook the roast for 3.5 to 4 hours, unattended. When you pull the roast out, it should be fall-apart tender. Discard the sprigs of rosemary and thyme.
Chef’s Note: If you want your carrots to have a bit more bite to them don’t add them until the last two hours of cooking time.
Remove roast from pot, and slice against the grain into nice thick slices. This may not be easy, since the roast will be fall-apart tender. You could always serve it shredded... making the dish even that much more rustic.
Chef's Note: Why add the lemon juice at the end? Well, if you added it at the beginning of the process, its unique flavor would get lost... by adding it at the very end, it adds a unique kick to spice up the sauce.
Chef's Tip: Okay, how much lemon juice is in 1/2 of a lemon? Well, depends on the lemon, so let's say that you want 1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice. But don't fogey, all good chef's season and taste, season and taste.
Add the lemon juice to the gravy in the pot (if using), and gently stir to combine. This gives the gravy an added kick. Place the beef into a serving dish, ladle the gravy over the top, and then surround with the onions and carrots.
Chef’s Note: You may have noticed an omission on my part, and that’s the addition of potatoes… I’m not a big fan of cooking the potatoes with the stew (although I know a lot of chefs do). Potatoes absorb a lot of flavor components, such as salt, and really change the flavor of the stew. So what I do, if I’m using potatoes, is to cook them separately, and then serve them on the side as baked, or as mashed.