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In Christmas in Bayberry, Wes is in town to make a financial assessment of the Bayberry Candle Company. Kate, who works at the family business, isn’t sure she’ll like his report. But over a meal at Mel’s Grille—beef stew, the Tuesday special—the two get to know each other a little better. Our Cast Iron Beef Stew is a wonderful, old-fashioned winter classic.

Be sure to properly season your skillet by coating the interior with a thin layer of vegetable oil or solid shortening, then placing the skillet upside down in the oven turned to about 325 degrees, for about one hour. Place aluminum foil under the skillet to catch the oil drips–no need to clean the oven afterwards! Once your skillet is seasoned, cooking in it regularly will keep it seasoned so you shouldn’t have to go through those steps again. Don’t put your skillet in the dishwasher.

Ingredients
· 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
· 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
· 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
· 1 (1 1/2 to 2 lbs) boneless chuck roast
· 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
· 1 medium yellow onion, medium dice
· 2 tablespoons tomato paste or 1/2 cup tomato sauce
· 3 cups beef broth (or 3 cups water and 4 bouillon cubes)
· 2 bay leaves
· 4 fresh thyme sprigs or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
· 2 to 3 medium carrots
· 2 medium celery stalks
· 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
· Optional: 1 cup frozen peas
· Note: You can substitute 1 cup red wine for 1 cup of the broth.

Preparation
1. Place 1/4 cup of the flour and the measured salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk to combine; set aside.
2. Trim the beef and cut it into 1- to 1-1/2-inch cubes.
3. Toss meat to coat in flour mixture.
4. Heat the oil in a deep cast iron skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat.
5. Shake off the excess flour from about one-third of the meat and add it to the cast iron.
6. Stirring rarely, fry until browned all over, about 4 to 5 minutes.
7. Remove meat and set aside.
8. Add the onion to the pot and season with salt and pepper.
9. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
10. Add the tomato paste, stir to coat the onion, and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes more.
11. Sprinkle in the remaining tablespoon of flour and cook, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute.
12. Pour in the broth, scraping the bottom of the pot as you stir to loosen remnants of beef coating.
13. Cook until the mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes.
14. Return the meat and any accumulated juices back to the cast iron skillet.
15. Add the broth, bay leaves, and thyme and stir to combine.
16. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.
17. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 1 hour.
18. While it's simmering, cut the carrots, celery, and potatoes into large dice and, when it's time, add them to the pot.
19. If adding peas, put them in at the same time.
20. Stir to combine, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables and meat are knife tender, about 1 hour more.