Simple Beef Rendang

So this was kind of fun. I’ve had a sort of off-hand interest in making the beef rendang from Molly Stevens’ All About Braising for a while now, since reading rave reviews of it on eGullet. However, Molly’s version includes a few ingredients that I am pretty sure I couldn’t get in Salem, and have never actually seen in real life, such as fresh galangal and turmeric. (I’m not even sure I had realized dried turmeric came from a root, for that matter.) The ingredients essentially add up to a red curry paste, in which beef is slowly cooked with coconut milk until all the liquid evaporates, and the beef is fried in the remaining coconut oil and gravy-like remnants of curry.

After our last order of Curry Simple sauces arrived, I looked over the booty and began to wonder if I might be able to use some of it to make a simplified version of beef rendang. Jeremy brought me home a beautiful 3-pound brisket, and the next day I cut it into cubes, trimming off the fat cap as I went, and tossed it in my big Dutch oven with some whole star anise, a chunk of ginger, and enough red curry sauce to cover. It simmered ever so slowly away into the evening, and after a few hours of periodic stirring, I had a potful of tender beef covered in a rich mahogany gravy. Served over rice, it took no more of my time to prepare than does our favorite masaman curry, just spread out over the course of an afternoon, and the flavor was fantastic. Mind you, we haven’t eaten the red curry yet in its more basic form, but cooking it down with the beef made it complex and savory, with hints of sweetness, citrus (from the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, I imagine), and heat. It was a bit spicier than the masaman and yellow curries, but nothing a tall glass of water, a pile of rice, and a scoop of white chocolate ice cream for dessert couldn’t solve.

If I ever track down a source for fresh galangal and turmeric—there must be some in Portland somewhere, right?—it would be fun to try my hand at mixing my very own curry paste. In the meantime, we’ll definitely be making this version again!

Simple Beef Rendang

3 lb beef brisket, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
2 T olive oil
3 star anise, whole
1″ chunk of ginger, peeled
1 family-size packet of Curry Simple red curry sauce

In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, cook the brisket in the olive oil just until the meat begins to get a good sear. Add the star anise, ginger, and just enough red curry sauce to cover the meat. You may not need the whole packet; the excess can be refrigerated or frozen. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer very slowly uncovered for 2-3 hours, stirring every 25 minutes or so, until the curry sauce reduces to a thick gravy. If desired, skim off any excess fat before serving over rice.

Source: Loosely based on All About Braising, by Molly Stevens

Update 6/1/08: Tonight’s dinner was a panang-ified chicken curry with onions and peppers, using the remains of the red curry packet. (There was just enough leftover from the rendang to make 3 servings.) I added a tablespoon of peanut butter to the sauce, as recommended by the Curry Simple website. I’ve never had panang curry, but Jeremy said it tasted a little like what he’s had before. In this incarnation, the red curry sauce was definitely spicier than it was in the rendang—it was pushing the limits of my heat tolerance, but I went back for a little more, so clearly it didn’t bother me too much. 🙂

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