The stew is a streamlined version of a Julia Child recipe for Beef Burgundy. (And after still further tweaking I managed to simplify it even more.) Her original is just ridiculous, with all sort of last-minute additions and those incredibly time-consuming pearl onions. No Way! But you'll see below that I don't let you just dump everything into the crockpot and hope for the best. I give you . . .
DEBI'S BEEF BURGUNDY
5 lbs. (or so--a little more or less won't hurt) chuck roast or pot roast--don't use anything else
6-8 slices good bacon (I often buy Hormel Black Label; Costco also sells some excellent brands)
Olive oil, as needed
1-2 large onions, finely chopped (depending on how much you like onions)
3 large carrots, finely diced
1 1/2 pounds fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used one entire Costco container of crimini mushrooms plus a little bit I had left over)
3-4 large garlic cloves, pressed
Generous grindings of pepper
2 cups red wine (any kind will do)
2 cups beef broth (I use McCornick's Beef Base--please do not use those horrible bouillon cubes--or Better than Bouillon)
1 6-oz can tomato paste
Fry the bacon until fairly crisp in a big frying pan; remove the bacon to a plate but leave the bacon fat in the pan. Cut the beef into 1 1/2-inch cubes, trimming away the big chunks of fat and any tough silver skin that you see. Don't drive yourself crazy, though. Salt and pepper the chunks and shake in a bag with flour. Don't worry too much about shaking off all the excess flour. Brown well in the bacon fat and then, when you've used that up, in olive oil, trying not to crowd the beef. You'll have to do several batches regardless of how large your pan is, so persevere. Dump the browned cubes into your crockpot as they're finished. Also scrape in the flour/fat mixture after about every other batch, as it will eventually burn. That scraped-in flour is going to thicken your stew. Then saute the onions and carrots until softened and starting to brown, again using some more olive oil, and dump them in, then saute the mushrooms as well. You need to give the mushrooms enough time so that they release their liquid and then cook down--you want the pan to be almost dry. Doing this step will go a long way to keeping you from having a too-watery sauce. Dump in everything else and set your crockpot to cook at least 6 hours. I have a Rival crockpot that tends to run very hot, even on low, so I always just use that setting. 6-8 hours does fine in it. You probably know the idiosyncrasies of your own crockpot.
When the stew is done, you'll need to skim off quite a bit of fat. (Yes, I know--I had you put in all that fat, and now I'm telling to to skim it off. Such is life.) Just stand there with a big spoon and patiently get off as much as you can without dipping into the actual sauce. Once you've done that, stir up the stew to get everything mixed in from the bottom. It should be fairly thick, not watery. If you have a crockpot wit a removable liner, and it's fairly respectable looking, you can just put that on the table, being careful to have some kind of trivet or other heatproof protection for your table. (That's just there for my own peace of mind. I'm sure you already know that.) Or you can ladle it into a serving dish. I served this with my regular homemade rolls, whole-wheat noodles, and a big salad. Very, very good!