A proper beef stew should braised low and slow for hours. You’ll create layers of deep flavor by simmering seared pieces of chuck roast with onions, leeks, and garlic in a seasoned broth. Add the vegetables in the last hour to ensure they’re perfectly bite-tender. This is a recipe made for Sunday supper, and the leftovers are even better the next day.
Divide the beef into 2" pieces. Remove any thick fat deposits, sinew, and gristle.
Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add half the beef, ensuring pieces are in a single layer. Leave undisturbed for at least 5 minutes to sear until a good crust forms. Remove beef to a plate and repeat with the remaining chuck roast pieces. Set aside all browned beef on a plate.
Add the onions and leeks to the dutch oven and toss to coat in the fat. Saute, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic; saute, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and work into the vegetables.
Deglaze the pot with the balsamic vinegar, stirring up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot, until the vinegar stops bubbling and is mostly evaporated, 1-2 minutes.
Return the browned beef to the dutch oven. Pour in enough broth to barely cover the beef (about 3 cups), as well as salt and pepper. Give everything a good stir, then add the bay leaf and thyme bundle. All the liquid to come to a simmer. Cover the pot, turn off the burner and transfer to the oven. Braise for 2 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and place onto the stove. Whisk together the cornstarch or arrowroot powder and remaining cup of beef broth, then pour into the stew.
Add the chopped potatoes, carrots, and celery. Give the stew a good stir, and again heat over a medium-high flame until the liquid comes to a simmer. Cover and return the stew to the oven to continue braising.
Braise an additional 1-1.5 hours, or until the beef is falling apart and the vegetables are tender. Test for doneness around the 1 hour mark.
Remove the dutch oven from the stove. Fish out the bay leaf and thyme sprig using tongs. Stir in half to one cup of additional beef broth if the stew is too thick. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper if needed. Ladle stew into bowls and garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired.
Freezing and Storing Instructions
To Freeze, Option 1: Fully prepared, beef stew freezes well. Cool the stew, then portion into airtight containers and store in the fridge for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight then reheat in a pot over medium heat until warmed through.
To Freeze, Option 2: For beef stew purists (ahem, lifts hand) defrosted stew with the vegetables isn't quite right. After freezing and defrosting, the vegetables can be mushy. For that reason, I like to freeze stew half-way through the cooking process, just after the first braise is completed. I'll often have 2 pots of stew working - one to eat immediately, one to freeze. After the first braise, cool the stew and transfer to an airtight container; freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight and continue from Step 6 - bring the liquid to a simmer, then add the slurry and vegetables. Finish braising in the oven until the vegetables are cooked through.
To Refrigerate: Store leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days. It's even better the second day. Reheat in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in-between, or in a pot over medium heat until warmed through.
Slow Cooker Instructions
Brown the beef in a large soup pot or dutch oven, then remove and place into your crock pot.
Cook the onions, leeks, and garlic.
Add the tomato paste, then deglaze with balsamic vinegar.
Scrape the onion mixture into the crockpot.
Pour in 4 cups* broth and season with salt and pepper. Add the carrots, celery, and potatoes and give everything a good stir. Place the bay leaf and thyme on top. (I find that I lose more liquid to evaporation in the slow cooker. If yours has a very tight seal, keep the 3 cups as listed in the recipe card above).
Program to Low for 6-8 hours.
In the last hour, pour in the slurry and give the stew a good stir. Crack the lid and simmer for the final hour to allow the stew to thicken.