This is the basic recipe for burgundy beef stew that I have been preparing for most of my married life. I think I found it in a Betty Crocker cookbook, but I have so many cookbooks that they constitute a statistical universe, and after 35 years, I can't be absolutely sure. If you follow this as written, you will have a wonderful stew with tender meat and lots of delicious sauce.
6 slices of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 pounds beef cut for stew, in 1 inch cubes
½ cup flour
1 ½ cup burgundy or dry red wine
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant beef bouillon
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
4 medium onions, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
Fry the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp; remove bacon and reserve. Coat the beef with flour; cook and stir beef in hot bacon fat until brown. (Do the coating and cooking in small batches so that the meat browns nicely. Take your time with this step, it really makes a difference.) Drain excess fat from Dutch oven; add back all of the browned beef. Add wine and just enough water to cover beef. Stir in garlic, bay leaf, salt, bouillon, thyme and pepper. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer until beef is tender, about 1 ½ hours.
Meanwhile, cook and stir mushrooms and onions in butter over medium heat until onions are tender. Add the mushrooms, onions and bacon into the stew, stir to combine, cover and simmer 10 more minutes. Remove bay leaf. Serve over buttered egg noodles or with mashed potatoes or oven-roasted new potatoes. Garnish with parsley. Serve a salad or a green vegetable, something like broccoli. Or add cooked green peas to the egg noodles.
Over the past 35 years I have tinkered with this recipe. No kidding, right? Keep in mind that the basic technique is the same - the beef is browned to seal in juices and flavors, and a flavorful liquid is then poured in to deglaze the pan, and provide the cooking medium. Stick to those techniques while adding layers of flavor and you can expand your stew universe to the moon, Alice! Walk this way ...
I have used more bacon, or no bacon, or thick-sliced bacon. I have sauteed a couple of chopped onions at the beginning of the recipe, in addition to those that are added towards the end with the mushrooms. Then I take them out, add a little more oil or bacon fat, and brown the beef. Sometimes I chop up some carrots and saute them along with the onions. These onions and carrots then get added back in to cook along with the beef. It goes without saying that when you are sauteeing onions and carrots, you should add some kosher salt, black pepper, and a little sugar to the pan to add flavor and promote carmelization. Sometimes I also use a little Hungarian paprika, or smoked paprika, and some granulated garlic. Although this is officially a "bourguignon" I prefer to use merlot instead of burgundy, and instead of the water plus the instant beef bouillon, I use beef broth, or even better, beef stock, the type you buy in a box at the market. I like the Kitchen Basics brand, it has the best taste. I also like to throw in a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme instead of, or in addition to, the dried thyme. You don't even have to strip off the little leaves; just let the sprigs cook in with the stew, and at the end, the leaves will fall off into the stew and you just have to remove and discard the denuded twig, along with the bay leaf. Regular white mushrooms are nice, as are crimini or portobellos of any size. Don't bother spending extra money on shittake, because while I love them, their delicate flavor gets lost in this dish.
Like all stews and pot roasts, this dish tastes better the next day, so plan ahead. And remember to cook like there's nobody watching, and eat like it's heaven on earth.