Adapted from All About Braising by Molly Stevens
6 dried chiles, like chile de arbol or birdseye chile
2 lemongrass stalks, woody tops, root ends, and outer layers removed, fragrant 4 inch cores coarsely chopped
4 shallots, coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 ½ inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ tsp ground turmeric
2 inch piece fresh galangal, peeled and coarsely chopped (optional)
Pinch of coarse salt
2 tbsp peanut oil
3 whole star anise
5 cardamom pods
2 3-inch cinnamon sticks
2 ½ lbs boneless beef chuck, or brisket, cut into 1 ½ to 2-inch cubes
1 ½ tsp sugar
2 cans (28 oz) unsweetened coconut milk, or as needed
4 fresh kaffir lime leaves (optional)
Make the Spice Paste:
Combine the chiles, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and galangal, if using, in a blender, small food processor, or a mortar and pestle. Season with salt. Grind the spices until they become a coarse paste, adding a couple of tablespoons of water as necessary, if the ingredients are too dry to grind. It is important to grind thoroughly – as too many fibers or chunks will make for an unpleasant taste.
Make the Curry:
Heat the oil in a large deep skillet, or a cocotte over medium-low heat. Add the spice paste and fry, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the paste grow somewhat glossy as the oil starts to separate out o fit. This process should take any place between 3 and 8 minutes. It will take a bit longer if you have added water to the paste.
Next, add the start anise, cardamom, and cinnamon and stir well to combine. Add the beef and stir to that all the pieces are well coated with the paste. Season with sugar and add a nice pinch of salt.
Pour the coconut milk over the beef (should cover the beef) and stir well to blend all the ingredients together. Bring the raise to a gentle simmer, and lower the heat so that the beef is braised, uncovered, for about 2 ½ hours. Stir the stew every 20 minutes or so. Be sure to check on your simmer. Molly Stevens suggests that you should see occasional bubbles, but “certainly not a torrent”. I think that’s enormously descriptive of just how active a braise you are looking for. Sometimes, however, our stoves have a mind of their own, and the braising bubbles are much to active for our tolerance levels. If such a thing occurs, simply use half the cooking time to cook the beef covered, so that not too much liquid evaporates.
Serve over basmati rice, but be sure to skim some fat off before serving. A little is good for flavor, but if you are using chuck, you’ll definitely have some fat to dispose of.