Combine the oil and flour in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stirring constantly for 10 to 15 minutes, make a dark brown roux, the color of chocolate.
Season the stew meat with 2 teaspoons of the salt and the cayenne. Add the meat to the roux and brown the meat, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots, onions, and celery. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until a paste forms. Add the water and stir to blend into the roux mixture. Add the potatoes, bay leaves, the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, the black pepper, and thyme. Bring to gentle boil and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender.
Remove the bay leaves, skim off any fat that has risen to the surface, and serve
Yield: 4 servings