A hearty stew can sure hit the spot on a blustery day. This recipe offers lots of fun, hands-on work for a houseful of cooks. And because beef stew is meant to cook slowly, kids will discover the merit of having a little patience.
Set a large, heavy-bottomed soup or stew pot over medium heat for several minutes. Meanwhile, combine the stew beef and 1/4 cup of the flour in a gallon size plastic or paper bag. Shake well to coat the meat.
Add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil to the pot. Gently swirl the pan to spread the oil around. Add half of the meat to the pan, shaking off any excess flour, and brown it for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the browned meat to a heat proof dish. Then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan and brown the remaining meat.
Stir the onion, celery, garlic, and first batch of meat back into the pan. Saute the mixture for 3 minutes, stirring often, until the onion wilts.
Stir in the broth, tomato juice, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and bay leaves. Increase the heat, bringing the liquid to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and gently simmer the stew for 1 hour, stirring several times as it cooks.
Stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the reserved 3 tablespoons of flour. Bring the stew to an active simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes more, until the vegetables are tender.
To thicken the stew, spoon a ladleful of broth into a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the reserved 3 tablespoons of flour. Then stir the mixture into the stew and simmer for 10 minutes more. Serve with dinner rolls or over rice or noodles. Makes 6 to 8 servings.