Combine porcini mushrooms and 1 cup boiling water in a small bowl; let stand 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms through a sieve into a bowl, reserving liquid. Chop mushrooms; set aside.
Sprinkle beef with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of beef to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until lightly browned on all sides. Remove beef from pan with a slotted spoon; place in a bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining beef.
Add onions to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add cremini mushrooms and carrot; sauté 3 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Add beef, porcini mushrooms, porcini liquid, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, broth, and next 4 ingredients (through bay leaves); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours or until beef is tender. Uncover and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Combine 1 tablespoon water and cornstarch in a small bowl. Add cornstarch mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until liquid thickens. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves.
Wine note: Mushrooms and merlot are a natural match. An affordable California version like Buena Vista Carneros Merlot 2004 ($20) provides classic merlot flavors of plum and black cherry fruit along with a touch of earth and smoky oak that marries beautifully with mushrooms. The wine's rich flavor and firm tannins make it a perfect choice for flavorful beef, as well. --Jeffery Lindenmuth