Let's just say it was overwhelming at best. I finally settled on a cheap Chianiti ($6) because I knew for a certainty what it was. So my point is, I can't really give you any advice on selecting the best wine because I have no idea (feel free to share if you're knowledgeable in this area). Based on whatever I've read, however, I can tell you that even if you choose a wine that may not be the highest quality or isn't something you'd normally drink, it should still work fine for cooking.
And finally, if you prefer not to use wine in your cooking, I have two things to say: 1) check out this website with a nice little chart halfway down that explains how much alcohol burns off in cooking; and 2) I haven't yet tried this particular recipe without wine, but having made many other wine-less stews, using beef stock will do the trick as well. It just won't have quite the same flavor.
Bon Appetit! (sorry I couldn't resist)
Recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking*
Pictures by Kelly
6 oz bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 lbs lean stewing beef
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine
2-3 cups beef stock (or bouillon)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 crushed bay leaf
18-24 pearl onions
1 pound mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons butter
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large dutch oven-type pot, saute the bacon over medium heat for 2-3 minutes to brown slightly. Remove from pot and set aside
- Dry the beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Saute it, a few pieces at a time, in the hot oil and bacon fat until nicely browned on all sides. Remove from pot.
- In the remaining oil and bacon fat, brown the onion and carrots, 3-4 minutes. Remove from pot and pour out remaining oil.
- Return the beef to the pot and add the salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the flour and toss to coat beef with the flour. Cook about 4 minutes until the meat is covered with a light crust.
- Return the bacon, onions, and carrots to the pot. Stir in the wine and enough beef stock to barely cover the meat. Add the tomato paste, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Cover and place in oven; cook for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.
- Just before the beef is done, saute the mushrooms in 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a large pan. Remove from pan and add pearl onions and 1/2 tablespoon butter. Cook until soft (you may want to add a few tablespoons of water).
- When meat is tender, remove pot from oven, taste, and add more salt as needed. Add pearl onions and mushrooms. Serve with boiled salted potatoes.
*I made some slight alterations to the directions. Ok and I also added more carrots than Julia. I just happen to like more carrot in my stew, thank you very much. And I skipped her final step involving thinning or thickening the sauce because I thought my sauce was already the perfect thickness. If you want to do it exactly the way Julia Child did, you can go buy her book. :)