Heat half of the butter in a frying pan. Add the diced potatoes, mushrooms and yard-long beans. Cook over high heat, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned. No, they don't have to be cooked through at this point. Scoop out and set aside.
To the remaining butter in the pan, add the beef cubes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook over high heat until most of the surfaces are seared. Pour in enough water to cover. Add the onion halves, garlic cloves, thyme, oregano and sage. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about two hours or until the beef is tender.
After the beef has cooked for an hour and a half, make the gravy. Over medium heat, melt the remaining butter in a small sauce pan. Add the flour, all at once, and mix until smooth. Cook, stirring occasionally, to make a brown roux.
Scoop about two cups of broth from the pot with the simmering beef and pour the broth slowly into the roux, mixing as you pour.
Pour the gravy into the pot with the beef. Add the potatoes, mushrooms and yard-long beans. Stir gently but thoroughly. Taste and adjust the seasonings, as needed.
Cover the pan and cook the beef and vegetables in the gravy for 10 to 15 minutes or until the vegetables are done and the gravy is reduced and thickened.
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