It's definitely fall food. Satisfying, warm, and hearty with rich, deep flavors and scents that fill the house when it's done right. I had read an account by flit about her perfect stew and I was motivated to do some for myself. It helped that the local supermarket had a sale on cross-rib chuck. They were selling roasts and steaks from that area at half price, though it was under the guise of a two-for-one sale. The roasts were 3 pounds to 5 pounds. Oof. The 'steaks' were about a pound each, and about 3/4 of an inch thick. Which was about right for stew bits.
I like chuck for braising, it never seems too dry after a long cooking and it always has good flavor even after hours at a simmer.
I trimmed off all the layers of fat, cubed the two steaks (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of meat), and then browned it in our Dutch oven. I did it half the batch at a time, to make sure that the meat browned. I even did the old trick of spreading all the meat out in the pan, putting the splatter guard on it, and then actually walking away for a bit. To really caramelize the stuff, it has to sit on the one side for at least two minutes. Walking away seems to insure that for me. Then I'd come back, turn it and walk away again. I only browned two sides of each chunk thoroughly, and then got them all out onto a plate in order to do the second batch.
A huge, roughly chopped onion and three roughly chopped celery stalks went in when the second batch came out. Browned that for a couple of minutes. Then two cloves of minced garlic went in until that had gotten a little brown, too. Two big spoonfuls of flour went in and I tossed the suddenly dry vegetables around and let the flour coat the sides until it was all good and brown, and then I poured marsala in. I don't really know how much, enough to cover the bottom of the pot by a good quarter inch and when I stirred, the roux thickened it abruptly. So I poured some more in, and then got the cup and a half of mild beef stock (from Penzey's) and poured that in, which abruptly cooled everything off. I stirred it until the bottom of the pan was clean.
Then I added a couple bay leaves, some dried thyme, and dumped the browned meat and all the accumulated juices in. Then I put it all into a 250 degree oven for an hour. I cubed two potatoes into something approximating inch big cubes, thick sliced two big carrots, and tossed those into the pot and folded them into the gravy and other stuff. Then back into the oven until it was time to eat... which was somewhere between one and two hours.
I love stew because it can just sit in the oven until I want it. John and I loved it. It was so hearty and wonderful in the cold evening, especially with crusty bread and butter. Mmmm...
Jet, of course, completely ignored the stew and chose to eat frozen fries, instead. Hee. That'll keep me humble.