Here’s a recipe for a truly delicious stew. That’s all there is to say about it.
From Food & Wine magazine, with minor changes.
- 2 lbs boneless chuck, cut into 1.5-inch pieces
- 2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed, cut into 3-inch pieces and smashed
- 3T fish sauce
- 2t brown sugar (light or dark)
- 1.5t five-spice powder (Vietnamese, not Chinese)
- 0.25 cups canola oil or other neutral oil
- 1 cup chopped shallots or onion
- 3T minced peeled ginger
- 1T garlic, finely chopped
- 1.5 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- 2 whole star anise
- 1 bay leaf
- 0.5t sea salt
- 5 cups water
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 0.25 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, mint, or basil
Mix the beef cubes, lemongrass, fish sauce, brown sugar, and five-spice powder in a large bowl. Let marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Heat a Dutch oven or large pot until very hot; add 1T oil. Brown the meat in three batches, reserving the finished pieces in a bowl. Make sure to keep any meat juices that collect in the bowl from the seared meat, as well as the unused marinade, for later in the recipe.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the shallots, ginger, garlic, and remaining 1T oil. Cook until fragrant, stirring often. Add the tomatoes, star anise, bay leaf, and salt. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until the mixture reduces and thickens slightly, 10 minutes or so.
When the tomato/shallot mixture is ready, return the beef and accumulated juices to the cooking vessel. Add the reserved marinade, and cook, stirring often, until tomato mixture thickens and coats the beef, about 5 minutes. Stir in the 5 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. When it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover, simmering until the beef yields slightly when pierced with a knife, about 1.25 hours.
Skim and discard the fat, if any, from surface of the stew. Stir in the carrots and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered this time, until the beef and carrots are tender and sauce has thickened—about 45 more minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 5 to 10 minutes.
Check the flavor and add more fish sauce or salt, if you feel it needs it. Remove and discard the lemongrass, star anise (if you can find them) and bay leaf. Add to bowls and sprinkle with cilantro before serving.
Here’s the thing with this one. If you have the time, cook this a day before you need it and let it sit in the fridge for 24 hours before gently reheating and serving over rice. It tastes much better a day later.