Preheat the oven to 250° (this stew cooks low and slow!)
In a large Dutch Oven with a lid add the beef stew meat, potato, carrots, celery, onions.
Pour in the tomato juice and Worcestershire sauce.
Sprinkle in the sugar, tapioca pearls, kosher salt, pepper, chili powder, smoked paprika. Give it all a really good stir to combine.
Nestle the bay leaves into the stew.
Cover with a lid and pop in the oven for 5 hours. If you can give it a stir once or twice half way through the cooking time.
Remove from the oven and fish out the bay leaves and discard. Give the beef stew a good stir and let cool for about 15 minutes before serving (it will be HOT!).
Taste the stew for seasonings... see notes for flavor troubleshooting.
Serve in bowls with a side of saltine crackers or warm crusty bread.
Store any Leftovers in the fridge in airtight containers for up to 4 days.
You can freeze the cooled beef stew in freezer safe containers or baggies for up to 3 months.
Thaw in the fridge overnight or place the frozen stew in a pot on the stove top. You may need to add some liquid when reheating (beef stock, chicken stock or water).
Tapioca Pearls: These are used to thicken the stew gravy during cooking. don't worry they melt completely into the stew.You can find tapioca pearls in the grocery store either with the pudding or by the grains. Just make sure you do not buy tapioca pudding mix. You only want the tapioca pearls, buy a large or medium sized.You can also order the tapioca pearls here from Amazon.Seasonings:
Too savory - add a little more sugar and give it a good stir.
Too salty - add some broth (beef or chicken) or water to dilute the saltiness.
Too sweet - add some additional salt, a couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce or a vinegar like balsamic.
Too Tangy - add a little more sugar and give it a stir.
Add frozen peas or green beans at the very end of cooking, the heat of the stew will warm the peas.
Baby Bella mushrooms, halved, will add a nice earthy flavor and hearty texture.
Instead of chopped onion use frozen pearl onions.
Chop some fresh thyme or rosemary and add it at the beginning for a herbaceous flavor.
For red wine lovers, replace a cup of the tomato juice with a cup of red wine (pinot noir or malbec would be great!).