Beef (or Buffalo or Venison) Stew

Heat 2 tsp. of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the mushrooms and thyme and continue sautéing until the mushrooms are soft, about 15 minutes. After trimming all visible fat from the meat, cut it into 1 inch cubes. Coat the cubes with flour. Push the mushroom mixture to the sides of the pot, clearing as big a space as possible in the center of the pot. In the center, add 1 tsp. of the remaining olive oil and heat it. Add as many cubes of meat as will fit comfortably in one layer. Sear the cubes on all sides, and remove them from the pan. Sear the remaining meat in one or two batches using the remaining oil, then return all the meat to the pan. If your pot isn't big enough for searing the meat while the vegetables are still in it, or your vegetables are in danger of scorching, remove the veggies before you sear the meat. (Scorching shouldn't be a problem - the liquid in the veggies usually prevents it - but keep your eyes open.)

Add the wine, stock, tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots. Bring the stew to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for at least 2 hours. If the stew is too liquid, cook it longer. If the stew gets too thick as it cooks, add more wine or stock. Season with salt and pepper. (If you're using beef, the meat will be more tender if you cook the stew for about 3 hours. To do this, just put a lid on the pot once the stew reaches the consistency you like, and cook it over very low heat for the remaining time.) As the stew cooks, bring water to a boil in a large pan. Add the barley and simmer until it's tender, about 35 minutes. Serve the stew with the drained barley.

This recipe serves 4 people. Because this recipe is for a particular size pan, it adjusts the number of servings only in multiples of 4.