The unusually warm weather this year has left our hearty cast iron pots a wee bit lonely in the pantry. Those stick-to-the-bone stews that I typically churn out through the winter have been shelved for skinnier salads and lighter soups. Although I ran across a unique beef stew recipe in the April issue of Food and Wine that was novel enough to tickle life into an anemic winter appetite. What makes it interesting is the fusion of herbs, spices and medley of aromatics from fragrant lemongrass to licorice-flavored star anise, potent ginger and sweet basil. The resulting flavors are distinctly Asian and very good.
Simmered for an hour, the beef is rendered into succulent and tender chunks that absorb the wide range of warm spices and herbs. The broth is reduced and the stew is served over a plate of rice noodles and topped with basil for a refreshing contrast to an otherwise heavy soup. This is definitely a soup that I will be making again.
Asian Beef Stew with Basil
From Food and Wine April, 2012 issue
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 lemongrass stalks, lower third only, chopped
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
- 3 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 5 cups low-sodium beef broth
- 4 carrots, cut into 2-inch lengths
- 3 star anise pods
- 1 whole lemongrass stalk, cut into 3-inch lengths and lightly smashed
- Kosher salt
- Cooked medium-thick rice noodles, for serving
- 1/2 cup torn basil leaves
- 1 long fresh red chile, thinly sliced (optional)
- Marinate the meat. In a mini food processor, mince the garlic with the lemongrass. Add the soy sauce, oil, salt, sugar and five-spice powder and pulse to combine. In a large bowl, toss the beef with the marinade to coat thoroughly. Let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Make the stew. In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add half of the meat; cook until lightly browned. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with 1 tablespoon of the oil and the remaining meat.
- Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil to the casserole along with the onion, garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper. Add 1 tablespoon of water, cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the aromatics are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until glossy, about 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Return the meat to the casserole. Add the carrots, star anise and lemongrass. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, 1 hour and 45 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a bowl. Boil the sauce over high heat until reduced to 4 cups, 3 minutes. Discard the star anise and lemongrass. Return the beef to the casserole. Season the stew with salt and serve over noodles. Garnish with the basil and red chile.