Beef Stew with Rice, Onions, and Tomatoes

This is an old family favorite, adapted, or adopted, in the sixties from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol.1, by Beck, Bertholle and Child.  Boeuf la Catalane is a hearty dish from southwestern France best accompanied by a green salad, French bread, and a strong, young red wine. (To see a close relative of this dish, made with veal, double click here on Veal and Rice Casserole.)

Preheat oven to 325F. (163C.) 

1/4-lb. chunk of bacon*        
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 lbs. lean stewing beef cut
into cubes 2 -inches across and1inch thick       
1 1/2 cups sliced onions                
cup clean, unwashed, raw white rice   
1 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
2 to 3 cups beef stock or canned beef bouillon  
Salt to taste
teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cloves mashed garlic
-to- teaspoon saffron threads, freshly ground in a mortar and pestle
teaspoon  thyme**
1 crumbled bay leaf**  
1 pound ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, juiced, and chopped  
             (about 1 cups tomato pulp; using 1 cups of canned
              tomatoes is fine)

1 cup (4 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese       

Remove rind from the chunk of bacon and cut bacon into strips, 1/2 –by- 1/8 of an inch thick. Simmer bacon strips in 1 quart of  water for 10 minutes. Drain, dry, and brown lightly in oil in a heavy, 10-inch skillet          
(*Alternatively, buy a one-pound package of bacon strips; cut one-quarter of the strips into one-inch lengths. Save balance of package for another dinner.  Skip the simmering step if short on time and simply brown the bacon without adding any oil to the browning skillet.)
Remove browned bacon pieces with a slotted spoon to a 3-quart fireproof casserole, about 3 inches deep.
Dry the meat on paper towels. Now add two tablespoons oil and heat together with any remaining fat in skillet until almost smoking, then brown the meat a few pieces at a time. When browned, add it to the bacon in the casserole.
Lower heat to moderate, and brown the onions lightly.
Remove them with a slotted spoon and add to the meat in the casserole.
Still in the same fat, stir the rice over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes until it turns a milky color. Scrape into a bowl and set aside until later.
Pour any remaining fat out of the skillet, add the white vermouth or  wine and stir for a moment over heat to dissolve coagulated cooking juices. Pour into the casserole.
Add stock or bouillon almost to the height of the meat. Salt lightly. Stir in the pepper, garlic, freshly ground saffron, thyme and crumbled bay leaf. (**Can use a good bouquet garni --about 1 teaspoonsful -- instead of the thyme and bay leaf if you prefer.)
Bring to simmer on top of the stove, cover tightly, and set in lower position of preheated oven to simmer slowly for I hour.
Remove casserole from oven. Stir in the tomatoes; bring to simmer on top of the stove, cover, and return to the oven for an additional 1 -to-2-hours of very slow simmering. When the meat is almost .fork-tender, remove casserole from oven. Raise oven heat to 375F. (190C.)
Tilt casserole and skim off fat. You should have 2 to 2
cups of liquid; add more stock or canned bouillon, or water, if necessary.  Stir in the sauted rice. Bring to simmer on top of stove, cover, and set again in lower third of oven. Regulate heat to keep liquid at a full simmer for 20 minutes so the rice will cook. Do not stir the rice. At the end of this time it should be tender and have absorbed almost all the liquid. Remove from oven and correct seasoning.  
Just before serving use fold the grated Parmesan cheese into the hot beef and rice. Serve from the casserole.

Yield: Serves 6

This recipe has been kitchen tested.

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