3 poundsboneless beef chuck (well-marbled), cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoonsolive oil
2medium yellow onions, cut into 1-inch chunks
7cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoonsbalsamic vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoonstomato paste
1/4 cupall-purpose flour
2 cupsdry red wine
2 cupsbeef broth (I like the Pacific organic brand)
1/2 teaspoondried thyme
4large carrots, peeled and cut into one-inch chunks on a diagonal
1 poundsmall white boiling potatoes (baby yukons), cut in half
Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in middle.
Pat beef dry and season salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon 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 one tablespoon more oil for each batch. (To sear meat properly, do not crowd the pan and let meat develop brown crust before turning with tongs.) Transfer meat to a large plate and 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, 1-2 minutes. Add wine, beef broth, water, bay leaf, thyme, and sugar; 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 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 (freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar go a long way). Let cool, then store in refrigerator overnight or until ready to serve. This stew improves in flavor if made at least 1 day ahead. Reheat, covered, over medium heat or in a 350°F oven. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.