All too often beef stew is a stodgy affair, dull on the palate and heavy in the stomach. I wanted to create a beef stew that would be lively and light, full of satisfying umami flavors, and very beefy. Use a good red wine that's not too tannic, and the best beef you can find. I owe the idea for the shiitake crisps to Fine Cooking magazine, although I've tweaked their recipe. You'll see, they taste amazingly like bacon! —Abra Bennett
Pour the entire bottle of wine into a heavy pot, the one in which you will cook the stew. Add the beef broth, onion, garlic, and carrot.
Remove the stems from the shiitakes and set the mushroom caps aside. Place the stems on a square of cheesecloth, add the bouquet garni, and tie into a tight bundle with kitchen twine. Place the bundle into the pot with the wine, bring to a boil, then let simmer gently for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat under the pot.
Salt and pepper the beef liberally. In a heavy skillet, heat 1 T of the olive oil, add the guanciale or pancetta and sauté until golden. Remove from skillet and drop the meat into the pot containing the wine mixture. Using the remaining 2 T olive oil as necessary, brown the beef in batches, being careful not to crowd the meat in the pan. You want the beef to be really brown on all sides, almost chocolate colored - for best results, don't use a nonstick pan. As each cube of beef is browned remove it from the skillet and drop it into the pot containing the wine mixture. When all the beef is soaking in the wine, cover the pot and let it all marinate for 1 hour (no heat at this point!).
Slice the shiitake caps into 1/4" slices. Half of the slices will go into the stew itself, the other half will be for making the shiitake crisps.
To make the crisps, preheat the oven to 375° Place a Silpat on a cookie sheet, or use a nonstick sheet pan. Drizzle the shiitake slices with 2 T olive oil and sprinkle them with the salt and thyme. With your hands, toss it all together to thoroughly coat the mushrooms. Place in the hot oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, tossing and turning them occasionally, until they are crisp and brown. Set aside on paper towels to drain and dry.
After the beef has marinated for 1 hour, remove the cheesecloth bundle, squeezing it well into the pot to extract all of the mushroom juices. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a steady simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add the other half of the sliced shiitakes and the sundried tomatoes and simmer for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until fork tender. Just before serving add the butter and stir well until the butter is melted and the sauce is shiny. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Serve with mashed potatoes or polenta, and a dark green vegetable like spinach or kale.