This classic red wine beef stew recipe is incredibly flavorful with hearty vegetables and tender, melt-in-your-mouth shreds of beef. The full recipe calls for blanched pearl onions, and while a bit time-consuming to prepare, they're worth the added effort. If you want to take a short-cut, go for frozen and defrosted pearl onions. They're easier to handle, and you won't sacrifice too much flavor or texture.
Fill a medium pot with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil (do not salt). While the water is coming to a boil, trim the root ends from the pearl onions.
Add the trimmed onions to the boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, drain in a colander, and plunge into an ice bath. Allow to sit in the ice bath for a few minutes, then drain. Peel the onions by gently squeezing until they pop out of the tough outer skin.
Cut the beef into 2” cubes, then season generously with salt and pepper.
Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Brown the beef in the olive oil in batches. Take care not to crowd the pot. Turn the pieces every few minutes until browned and slightly caramelized on all sides, 20-25 minutes total. As you finish each batch, remove the beef with a slotted spoon and set aside onto a plate.
Add the bacon to the pot and cook until the fat renders, 5 minutes. Push to bacon to the outer edges, add the onions, and cook until soft and starting to brown in spots, 8-10 minutes. Push aside some of the onions from the center of the pot, add the garlic, and saute until fragrant, 1 minute. Deglaze the pot with the balsamic vinegar, and cook, stirring up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot, until the vinegar stops bubbling and is mostly evaporated, 2-3 minutes.
Return the browned beef to the dutch oven. Pour in the wine and enough broth to barely cover the beef (2-3 cups). Stir to incorporate. Add the bay leaf, thyme bundle, and another half teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a simmer. Cover the pot, turn off the burner and transfer to the oven. Braise for 2 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and place onto the stove. In a small measuring cup, whisk together the arrowroot powder and one cup of beef broth to create a slurry. Pour the slurry into the stew, then add the chopped potatoes, carrots, and celery. Give the stew a good stir, and again heat over high until the liquid comes to a simmer. Cover, and return the stew to the oven to continue braising. Braise an additional 1-1.5 hours, or until the beef is falling apart and the vegetables are tender. Test for doneness around the 1 hour mark.
Once the stew is ready, increase the oven temperature to 450°F and remove the lid. Braise 15 minutes more at the higher temperature to caramelize the top of the stew and thicken the sauce.
Remove the dutch oven from the stove. Fish out the bay leaf and thyme sprig using tongs. Ladle into stew bowls and garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired. Serve immediately. This stew keeps in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days, and is even better the next day.