How to Make a Great Beef Stew
Being a novice home-cook, I still use my cookbooks and cooking magazines to generate ideas and learn techniques and that's how I approach most recipes including this one for stew. First, I look up the dish in several cookbooks and read about the essential ingredients and what cooking techniques are involved. You'd be surprised at the number of ways there are to make the same dish.
Next, I see what's on hand in my refrigerator and pantry and put together a shopping list. The beauty of a preparing stew is the flexibility it gives you with ingredients -- it's another "what's on hand" dish.
This recipe is for beef chuck (from the shoulder) and vegetable stew, but you could easily substitute veal, pork, or chicken. Because stewing tenderizes tough pieces of meat, you can save a buck by purchasing less expensive cuts from the rump, shoulder, and legs.
Remember, all meat is essentially muscle and those muscles less used by the animal will be more tender but typically less flavorful. Meat from the more exercised muscles will be tough but have more flavor. So it's important to use the proper cooking technique with the specific cut of meat. Check out the beef charts at How to Buy a Great Steak.
This is an easy recipe to prepare but involves a lot of prep time. It's best to get all the ingredients ready before you start. The French call this " mise en place" (MEEZ ahn plahs) or "everything in its place." This is how professional chefs do it and I suggest you incorporate it into your cooking practice.
This recipe also calls for wine and I suggest you use decent one. Remember, "never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink!"