I'm not sure how to break down a good general purpose stew. But here's a specific beef stew recipe that works really well for me:
Get your beef in full cuts, not "stew cuts". Those will be too small, and you'll have no idea what they're from. I like chuck roast for stew.
I cut it into steaks, season it 24 hours ahead (salt and pepper), then sear it in the stew pot over ripping. After it's rested a few minutes I cut it into the big chunks (1.25 inches maybe) that I'll use later.
I saute my aromatics in a separate pan, in the rough order of how long they take to cook (eg, carrots for a bit, then celery and mushrooms, then onions, then garlic). For stew I tend to cut onions in half circles, rather than dicing it.
I deglaze the stew pot, usually with a bit of sherry or wine (do not use cooking wine, over salted filth; deglaze basically means boil just a bit of liquid on top of some seared brown bits stuck to the bottom of a pan, scrape with a wooden spoon while boiling). After that I add either home made chicken stock or some Better Than Bouillon in water plus gelatin; either way, I add a shit load of Worcestershire, and sometimes some fish sauce. I usually add a small can of tomato paste. This is when I add seasonings. Salt, pepper, home made chili powder, some herbs (fresh thyme, oregano, dried bay leaves, usually). Then potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes, and the reserved beef cubes and their juices.
I prefer gold potatoes for, well, actually almost literally everything. Reds will keep more texture. Russets will break down and kind of thicken the soup a bit more.
I simmer on the stove for like, 45 minutes. Until the potatoes are fork tender.
Actually, my beef stroganoff is similar, though I use no potatoes, sirloin, less stock, no carrots or celery, a shallot, and temper in a pint of sour cream near the end.
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