Tuscan Beef Stew

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Tuscan Beef Stew
3 pounds boneless beef chuck (well-marbled), cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces*
Salt and Pepper
3 TBSP olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 TBSP tomato paste
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups dry red wine
1 (796ml) can of low sodium diced tomatoes
2 cups low sodium beef broth*
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
1/2 TBSP C&C Classic Italian Blend
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into one-inch chunks
3 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped into one-inch chunks

Preheat oven to 325Β°F with rack in middle.
Pat beef dry and season salt and pepper. In a large heavy pot, heat 1/3 olive oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Brown meat in 3 batches, turning with tongs, about 5-8 minutes per batch, adding 1/3 more oil for each batch. Set aside.

Add onions, garlic and balsamic vinegar; cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape brown bits from bottom of pan, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook a few minutes more. Add beef with juices back to pan and sprinkle with flour; stir with wooden spoon until flour is dissolved. Add wine, beef broth, diced tomatoes, water, bay leaf, and C&C Classic Italian Blend; stir with wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits from bottom of pan and bring to a boil. Cover pot with lid, transfer to preheated oven and braise for 2 hours.

Remove pot from oven and add carrots, celery and potatoes. Cover and place back in oven for 50-60 minutes more, or until vegetables are cooked and meat is very tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Let cool, then store in refrigerator until the next day or in freezer until ready to serve. Reheat, covered, over medium heat or in a 350Β°F oven.

*Make this stew vegetarian by substituting the 3lbs of beef with a rinsed 540 ml can of both red kidney beans and chickpeas, 2 cups sliced mushrooms (browned in batches), and vegetable broth in place of the beef broth. Skip the 2 hour braise, and head straight to cooking for one hour with carrots, potatoes and celery.

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