- Slice pancetta into thick bite-sized pieces. Heat in a large pot set over medium. Stir often until crisp around the edges, 10 to 14 min. Scoop into a small bowl. Drain off fat, leaving 3 tbsp (45 mL) in pot. Meanwhile, cut beef into bite-sized cubes.
- Pat beef with paper towel to remove excess moisture. After removing pancetta from pan, increase heat to medium-high. Add one-third of beef to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 5 to 7 min. Remove to a large bowl. Repeat with two more batches. Meanwhile, slice large fresh mushrooms in half.
- Remove beef to a bowl. Add mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables soften slightly, 2 to 3 min. Return beef and bacon to pot. Sprinkle with flour. Cook, stirring often, for 2 min.
- Pour in broth and sake. Stir in dried mushrooms, thyme and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, until beef is tender, 11/2 to 2 hours.
- Remove and discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Serve with crusty bread. If making ahead, cool stew. (See Secrets from the chef, below.) Store, covered and refrigerated, up to 3 days or frozen up to 2 months.
Secrets from the chef
This Japanese wine is made from fermented rice and has a mild flavour, making it good to cook with. It’s often served warm — great for washing down this stew.
A small tweak is all it takes to turn our sake version into hearty Irish stew or traditional beef bourguignon. To make it Irish, skip the sake and use a strong stout instead. To create a classic French version, use 2 cups (500 mL) full-bodied red wine in place of sake, and only 1 cup (250 mL) beef broth.
The best way to cool a stew? Partially covered, in the fridge. Leaving it out at room temperature can cause spoilage.