Boeuf a la Catalane from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume I is an amazing stew recipe containing beef, rice, tomatoes and surprisingly, cheese.
Last Christmas I received the two hard cover volumes of the famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking from my mother. I had read Julie and Julia and was inspired. I thought it would be a good idea to cook my way through the book just like Julie did to learn some of the basics of French cooking. I started with Volume I and went for it. I started by cooking about four of the recipes a week (plus sides from the book) and quickly realized I was going through 1-2 blocks of butter a week. Protests from my partner and my waistline meant that I would have to cut down on the recipes, and now I do about one a week including sides. I’ve cooked my way through a lot of the book, but I am not quite as dedicated as Julie. The mushroom, anchovy and shellfish recipes are all out due to the particular tastes of myself or my partner. I am not going to make any aspics. And I am wary about the quiche section after just one quiche took me through almost an entire block of butter.
She likes to overcook her veg, she loves her butter, and there is a 60’s feel to it all. There have been some losers, but in general the food is very good (half a block of butter tends to do that). I have done a pretty good chunk of it, but I’m nowhere near ending it. However, I will crack on and then.. Volume II.
One of our absolute favourites is Boeuf a la Catalane which I will attempt to re-write in a format the readers of recipes today are used to (she uses a column approach and a short recipe will have about 5 other recipes snuck into it). I’ve adapted some of the ingredients as well.
1/4lb chunk of bacon (I use pre-cut lardons)
2 tbsp olive oil
3 lbs stewing beef cut into squares 21/2″ x 1″
1 large-ish onion
1 cup clean white rice
1 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
2-3 cups beef stock
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves mashed garlic
2 tsp thyme
1 crumbled dried bay leaf
1 lb ripe red tomatoes
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Farenheit (approx 160 degrees Celsius)
Remove rind and cut bacon into lardons (obviously you can skip this step if you just bought lardons to begin with)
Simmer in 3 cups of water for 10 minutes. Watch the pot as this boils over very easy!
Drain, dry and brown lardons lightly in oil in a skillet. Remove with a slotted spoon and put in a large casserole that can go in the oven (like a Creuset)
Dry the cut beef on paper towels (if you are short on time don’t bother) and brown the meat a few pieces at a time in the skillet. Place into the casserole once browned.
Brown onions lightly and add to the casserole.
Still in the same fat you’ve had since the bacon stir the rice over moderate heat in the skillet for 2-3 minutes until milky in colour. Keep stirring or it will stick. Put the rice into a separate bowl (NOT the casserole) and set aside for later
Pour any remaining fat out of the skillet (I never have any as it’s sucked up by the rice) add the wine or vermouth and de-glaze the pan (stir it around and bring up everything stuck on the bottom with a wooden spoon). Pour into the casserole.
Add the stock to the casserole so that it just covers the meat. Season with your salt and pepper, add the garlic and herbs.
Bring to a simmer on top of the stove, and then set into the lower position of the preheated oven and let simmer for 45 minutes.
While the casserole is simmering prepare your tomatoes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and have a large bowl of ice cold water at the ready.
Take your tomatoes and gently put an X into the bottom of the tomato trying not to go very deep (about 2 mm – just breaking the skin really)
Plunge into the boiling water for about 15 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon into the ice cold water to stop them from cooking.
Peel off the outer skin and then scoop out the seeds using a grapefruit spoon.
Roughly chop and set to the side throwing out the skin and seeds
After the casserole has been in the oven for 45 minutes take it out and stir in the tomatoes.
Put it back into the oven for another 45 minutes or so until the meat is fork tender (ie you can stick a fork into it easily). Take the casserole out of the oven.
Raise the heat in the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit (180 degrees Celsius)
Make sure there is about 2 – 21/2 cups liquid in the casserole and if not add some more stock (or water). Stir in the rice, bring to a simmer on the stove top again and stick back in the oven.
Let cook for 20 minutes.
Take out of the oven and check it out. The rice should be cooked, and almost all the liquid should be gone.
Just before serving delicately fold the cheese into the beef and rice.
I think beef must have been a lot less tender back in Julia’s time and I have taken the liberty to reduce the cooking time from two 1 hour sessions to two 45 minute sessions. Be the judge yourself, if your meat isn’t ready yet stick it back in the oven for more.
I know it’s tempting but don’t overdo it on the cheese. The cheese can really overpower and kill the dish if there is too much. I would go less rather than more.
The recipe looks long, and it is long in time but it isn’t that difficult. Don’t let the long list of instructions put you off.
If you can’t be bothered you can always substitute canned tomatoes for fresh. I’ve never done it, but I imagine it would work.
Originally from the prairies and now in Montreal, I love exploring new places, eating great food and modern design. I'm mom of two wild things and paper and cake make me happy.
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