This recipe is perfect for a cold day (it was cooler than normal today, fortunately), but it takes a very long time to prepare, at least 3 hours.
Start with 1 to 2 pounds of stew meat, depending on how meaty you like your stew. All the stew meat I've ever bought had been in huge chunks, so you'll probably need to cut them into bite-size pieces.
In a plastic container (with a tight sealing lid), mix together 1/2 cup of AP flour, 1 tsp of dried Italian herbs, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of black pepper and 1/2 tsp of MSG (optional). Add the stew meat, seal the container, and shake to thoroughly coat the meat.
Add 2 tblsp of olive oil to a large, heavy pot or a Dutch oven and put on high heat. Shake the excess flour off the meat and add to the pot. You're not really trying to cook the meat at this point, you're just trying to brown the outside and develop some flavor. If you have too much meat and not a big enough pot, cook the meat in batches. When the meat is nice and brown on the outside, remove to a bowl.
Add some more olive oil until there are about 2 tblsp of fat in the pot. Add 1 onion, chopped, 1-2 carrots, chopped and 1 stalk of celery, chopped (the ratio of ingredients should be 2 parts onion, 1 part carrots, 1 part celery). Stir often until the onions are soft.
Add the meat back into the pot, then add three 14-ounce cans of beef broth (or 5 cups of water and 5 beef bouillon cubes). Add 2-3 bay leaves, 1 tsp dried Italian herbs, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of pepper and 1/2 tsp of MSG (optional). Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a slow simmer for two hours. The meat should be extremely tender.
Add in about 8 cups chopped baking potatoes (Russet, etc), 2 cups chopped carrots and 2 cups chopped celery. Other veggies that would work well include peas, corn and pearl onions. The amount of veggies should not go above the level of the liquid. Bring back to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 40 minutes until all the veggies are tender. Remove from the heat, taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary, and fish out the bay leaves.
Knead together 2 tblsp of butter and 2 tblsp of AP flour until it forms a dough. Split the butter dough into pieces and add to the stew. Stir until they have dissolved completely and the stew thickened.
Serve with fresh bread (or even better, serve in a bread bowl).