If you're like me, you're lazy when you're in the kitchen, but you don't want to give up the oohs and aahs from your adoring public. So what's to be done?
Cheat. Take an easy, basic recipe and tart it up. Since nobody tarts food up like the French, they're a good model. But you can't play it straight because real French boeuf bourguignon recipes are persnickety - it's French, remember. So we'll use some tricks to make it look (and taste) a lot like the real thing. You, of course, can modestly accept the adulation of your adoring public while leaving them in the (mistaken) impression that you slaved over this for days.
The Foundation is your favorite easy beef stew recipe. Everyone has one, and so I won't give you one here. This is the starting point, what we're going to tart up.
Tarting Up #1: The stew.
There's not a lot that changes here. Make sure you use a decent red wine - about half a bottle - for the stew. I like a basic pinot noir, and smoking loon ($7 or so) is a decent one. Not too good (never ever cook with grand cru) and not swill (don't cook with what you wouldn't drink.
The second cheat here is to use consomeé in the stew. It's a beef broth that is fortified with gelatin which will give your dish a serious boost in richness. It will be a major source of the oohs and aahs.
Tarting Up #2: The fixins
There's some ingredients that you will add to give it that French ooh la la. You add these in the last 30 minutes or so.
Cut 3 slices of bacon crosswise into 1/2" strips and fry them slowly until crisp. You're trying to render all the fat while you do this so don't crank the heat too high. The French call these lardons which translates as wee little bacon slices. Take the lardons out of the pan and save in a bowl.
Into the bacon fat add half a bag of thawed white pearl onions. Crank the heat to high - you want to brown these suckers, and it will take a while, stirring every minute or two. Take the onions out of the pan and put them in the bowl with the bacon.
Add sliced mushrooms into the bacon fat, reduce the heat, and let the mushrooms soak up the fat (it's not low fat, it's French). You can use boring old white button 'shrooms, but I like portabellos cut into chunks about half the size of a finger.
Creating your masterpiece
30 minutes before the stew is done toss in the bacon-onion-mushroom mix. When you're done cooking and have removed the stew from the oven, add a tablespoon of red wine vinegar to "brighten" the flavors. Correct the seasoning, and serve to a grateful world.