Beef Stew with Prunes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds lean boneless beef, preferably chuck, cut into 2-inch smaller cubes
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 onion, chopped
3 plum tomatoes, stemmed and chopped (canned are fine)
1 teaspoon sweet paprika, or more to taste
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup pitted prunes
1 tablespoon sherry or other vinegar, or to taste
Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Place a deep skillet or flameproof casserole with a lid over medium-high heat and add the oil. Brown the meat well on all sides, seasoning it and adjusting the heat as necessary, about 10 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon.

In the same pot over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and tomatoes with a large pinch of salt and some pepper. When they soften, after about 5 minutes, stir in the paprika, cinnamon, and bay leaf. Return the meat to the pan and add the stock and wine; bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, adjusting the heat so the mixture simmers steadily. (It’s unlikely but not impossible that you’ll need to add a little water or stock during the simmering check every 20 minutes or so.)

Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf and stir in the sugar and prunes. Simmer until the prunes and meat are soft, another 30 to 45 minutes or so. (You can prepare the dish to this point and let sit for a few hours or cover and refrigerate for up to a day before reheating and proceeding.) When the meat is very tender, uncover the pot and, if necessary, raise the heat a bit so the sauce thickens and becomes glossy. Stir in the vinegar, then taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Serve hot, garnished with parsley.

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