Vietnamese Beef Stew

This beef stew has surpassed a Corsican stew, beef with red peppers stewed in red wine, as my new favorite. A simple stew with chunks of beef and carrots simmered in a tomato and onion paste seasoned with classic Asian spices – Chinese five spice powder, ginger, star anise and of course fish sauce. Like the recipe for beef broth, the simmering pot perfumes the house with a spicy-homey fragrance. Great for a hearty Sunday dinner on a cold night. Serve with rice, potatoes or bread- to soak up the yummy sauce – and a crisp green salad.

Beef Stewed with Tomato, Star Anise and Lemongrass
Based on the recipe in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen

Can be prepared a day or two in advance to more easily remove excess fat and meld flavors.

2 1/3 lb boneless beef chuck, well trimmed and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks

1 stalk lemongrass, loose leaves discarded, cut into 3 inch lengths, and pounded with the broad side of a chef’s knife
3 T fish sauce
1 ½ t Chinese five-spice powder
2 ½ T peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 ½ t brown sugar
1 bay leaf

Vegetable oil for pan frying
1 yellow onion, minced
1 14 oz. can crushed tomato
2 star anise
3 c water
1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
¼ c cilantro, coarsely chopped
Salt to taste

In a bowl large enough to hold the beef chunks, combine the ingredients for the marinade. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the beef and mix to coat evenly.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Brown the beef chunks in batches, working quickly to prevent the bottom of the pan from burning, about 3 minutes per batch. Place browned chunks on a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Keep the lemongrass and bay leaf, discarding any remaining marinade.

Add the onion to the Dutch oven and cook over medium low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomato; stir to combine; cover and cook for 12-14 minutes. Occasionally stir or add a splash of water to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It should have the consistency of a chunky paste.

Return the beef, lemongrass and bay leaf to the Dutch oven adding the star anise. Stir and cook uncovered for about 5 minutes to develop the flavors. Add the water, stir and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 1 ¼ hours until the beef is chewy – slightly undercooked.

If you want to remove additional fat from the stew, stop the cooking process here and cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Skim the fat before reheating.

Bring the stew to a simmer and add the carrots. Cook uncovered for about 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced some and the beef and carrots are tender. Correct the seasoning and add the cilantro. Serve with the starch of your choice.

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