As the weather (sort of) begins to cool down for the fall in the Bay Area, I'm starting to crave hearty stews. This one gets better with time--make it for dinner and enjoy it for lunch the next day. The fennel adds a delicious earthy herbal taste that cuts into the fattiness of the dish. It's a very easy stew to make but be warned, it needs a few hours of simmering to come together.
1 onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
1 jalapeño, sliced
1 head of fennel
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1.5 pounds of chuck or another good stew cut, cubed
2 bay leaves
Slice the fennel bulb, setting the fronds and a quarter of the bulb aside for garnishing later on. Pour a small amount of olive oil in a large stock pot or dutch oven and throw in the diced onions. Over medium high heat, let the onions begin to caramelize in the bottom of the pot, getting sticky and making a bit of a mess. Once there is a nice layer of brown goodness on the bottom, pour 1/2 cup of white wine (or 1/4 cup vinegar if you don't have wine around) into the pot and scrape the onions off the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the rest of the ingredients on top of the scraped onions and add enough water to cover all of the meat with an inch of liquid. Cook over low heat for at least 3 hours, tasting and adding salt as needed. Garnish with fresh slices of fennel and some picked fronds, which will add some nice brightness to contrast the richness of the stew.