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Malaysian Beef Curry

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Larry doesn't get the time to cook much, except for throwing some meat or vegetable on the grill if he's home from work early enough. However, every now and then on a weekend he decides to tackle something more complex, which usually involves multiple trips to the grocery store, a thick cookbook or long search via Google, and a delicious, although usually late dinner.

Yesterday he wanted to do some sort of long-simmering recipe using something we don't see much of anymore, beef. Since he usually keeps to the French or Italian side of things, we thought he'd stretch a bit into some other cuisines. Some searching and we found a Bon Appetit recipe for Malaysian Beef Curry. And what was frightening was how many of the ingredients we already had. Tamarind paste? In the pantry. Dried New Mexico chiles? Yup. Fish sauce? It's that brown bottle that smells like old locker rooms.

We did have to go over to the fabulous Indian grocery stores in Waltham for some star anise, as the package in the spice drawer had lost much of its fragrance. Lemongrass was found at Whole Foods, a nice piece of brisket from Costco. And oh hey, let's have lunch at an Indian place in Waltham while we're at it.

The spice paste smelled astonishingly good. Larry used our little spice grinder, but a food processor or blender would also do the trick, just make sure everything is really finely chopped. The recipe didn't call for much liquid, although instructed that the meat should be fully covered. Larry added an additional 1/2 can of coconut milk, which as the meat cooked and shrunk then seemed to be too much. Instead of using a crockpot, we brought the curry to the simmer on the stove, then put in uncovered in a 325-350 oven. It simmered nicely, and the excess liquid evaporated, making the sauce thicker and more concentrated. If this were done in the crockpot, the one can would probably be enough.

After 3 1/2 hours, the meat was just about soft--and another 20--30 minutes would have been better, so plan on a long cooking tome. The sauce was complex, with hints of sweetness from brown sugar and cinnamon. Larry and Evan thought the spiciness was just right; I added some siracha hot sauce to mine and though it was perfection. This curry didn't have any vegetables, so we served it with steamed carrots and zucchini. I think next time we'll add some vegetables for the last hour of cooking to lighten things somewhat. I also think the recipe would be fantastic with skinned chicken thighs.

Malaysian Beef Curry (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Ingredients:

spice paste

8 large dried New Mexico chiles
4 lemongrass stalks
1/2 cup chopped shallots
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
2 teaspoons brown sugar

stew

3 pounds boneless beef chuck roast or brisket, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 13.5- to 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon tamarind paste or tamarind concentrate

Chopped fresh cilantro
Steamed rice
quartered limes
hot sauce such as siracha or your favorite


ingredient info

New Mexico chiles can be found at some supermarkets and at Latin markets. Fish sauce and coconut milk are sold at supermarkets and Asian markets. Look for star anise, star-shaped seedpods, in the spice section of the supermarket. Tamarind is available in Asian and Indian markets.

Preparation
spice paste
Cover chiles with very hot water and soak until soft, about 45 minutes. Drain. Stem, seed, and chop chiles.
Cut off bottom 4 inches from lemongrass stalks; chop and transfer to processor (reserve tops of stalks for stew). Add shallots, garlic, coriander, cumin, ginger, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper; process until finely ground. Add 1/2 cup water, chiles, fish sauce, and sugar; process to paste. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Transfer to bowl. Cover; chill.

stew
Smash reserved tops of lemongrass from spice paste with mallet or rolling pin. Bend in half; bundle with kitchen twine. Mix beef and spice paste in dutch oven. Stir in lemongrass bundles, coconut milk, star anise, cinnamon, and tamarind. Press meat down to completely submerge. Bring to the simmer on the stove, then put on 325 oven. Cook stew "Low and slow" until meat is very tender, 31/2 to 5 hours. Check every now and then to stir. If it's bubbling too fiercely, turn the oven down a bit. Tilt pot and spoon off excess fat from surface of stew. Remove lemongrass bundles, star anise, and cinnamon stick.
Transfer stew to bowl. Sprinkle cilantro over and serve with steamed rice, hot sauce, and limes.

Nutritional Information (from original recipe)
One serving contains:
Calories (kcal) 499.6
%Calories from Fat 51.5
Fat (g) 28.6
Saturated Fat (g) 11.7
Cholesterol (mg) 128.3
Carbohydrates (g) 13.6
Dietary Fiber (g) 3.1
Total Sugars (g) 3.7
Net Carbs (g) 10.5
Protein (g) 46.0
Sodium (mg) 780.7

Comments (2)

Laura Anne:

Hrm. I happen to have a large package of chicken thighs in the freezer... this may be a good alternative to try next weekend.

This looks delicious. I've never tried Malaysian foods - time to spread those wings a titch more.

Thanks for sharing, Amy!

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