Irish Beef Stew

4 pounds boneless beef chuck, or other stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 onions, minced

3 cups beef broth, chicken broth or water or more as needed

Bouquet garni (see note)

1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and thinly sliced

3 large white or red waxy potatoes

1 pint pearl onions or walnut-sized boiling onions, peeled, optional

¼-1 cup heavy cream (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste.

Select a tall, narrow pot. Put the beef, minced onions, and enough broth to cover in the pot, and then nestle the bouquet garni in the center. Bring to a simmer and skim off any froth. Add the sliced potato and return to a gentle simmer -- you want a bubble or two to break the surface about every second -- cover, and cook on the stovetop or in a 325-degree oven. Check every 10 minutes or so and adjust the burner heat or oven temperature as needed to maintain the gentle simmer.

After the stew simmers for 1 hour, stir it with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sliced potato and continue to simmer 1 more hour. Just before the stew has finished simmering for its second hour, peel the waxy potatoes, and cut into ¼-inch-thick rounds, yielding 4 or 8 ovals from each potato. Add the potatoes and pearl onions to the stew and continue to simmer gently for about 25 minutes, or until the meat and potatoes are easily penetrated with a skewer.

Stir in the cream, if using, bring back to a simmer, and season with salt and pepper. Serve in warmed soup bowls.

Serves six.

Cook's note: Bouquet garni is ideally made by tying up sprigs of fresh thyme with parsley stems or whole parsley (stems with leaves), bay leaves, and the greens from leeks.

Nutrition values per serving (without cream or added salt): 545 calories (17.7 percent from fat), 11 g fat (4 g saturated), 41.6 g carbohydrate, 4.7 g fiber, 61.5 g protein, 108 mg cholesterol, 544 mg sodium.

Nutrition note: Adding 1 cup cream adds 139 calories, 14.7 g fat (9.1 g saturated) and 54 mg cholesterol per serving and raises the percent of calories from fat to 33.8.

"Cooking: 600 Recipes, 1500 Photographs, One Kitchen Education" by James Peterson (2007 Ten Speed Press, $40)

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