So for my inaugural post involving actual food (which is, after all, the whole point of a cooking blog) I thought it might be fun to travel to Thailand. Well, kinda sorta. Okay, not even a little bit – the airfare to southeast Asia is outrageous these days, and that 14-hour flight? Yeesh! Let’s keep it slightly less grandiose and try more of a beef stew recipe that draws on some of the quintessential flavor components of traditional Thai cuisine – things like coconut milk, curry paste and fish sauce. I’m talking about a hearty mélange of beef and butternut squash with a distinctly Thai-influenced curry sauce. The recipe comes from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook titled “Quick Slow Cooking” by Kim Laidlaw.
This dish uses a braising method to take a seemingly lackluster cut like chuck roast and turn it into supremely tender, melt-in-your-mouth chunks of rich, beefy goodness, accented with tender-sweet morsels of butternut squash. Serve it with some jasmine rice and a garnish of fresh cilantro for that signature Asian herbal kick, and you have an American comfort food dish with a cultural identity crisis.
Since we’re doing a braise, that means low and slow, so I’m starting this one early in the afternoon, with plans to munch down around 7:00, which is a pretty standard dinner hour for us. This recipe is perfect for a cast iron Dutch oven, but I’m going even lower and slower – the crock pot. ‘Cause I just got a shiny new Cuisinart slow cooker and I can’t wait to test drive it. In the spirit of culinary adventure, I’ll be making this recipe for the very first time – I am my own guinea pig (although slightly less furry and rotund). Here’s a pic of my mise en place as I prepare to dive into the initial prep work. After that, it’s a 6-hour low simmer and we’ll find out just how good this recipe is (I hope). See you in a few hours.
We’re back with the verdict, ladies and gents, and the unanimous jury of two says … Yum! All the heartiness of a beef stew, with the exotic, mildly spicy warmth and richness of a good curry. The cilantro leaves and that little shot of fresh lime juice gave it that unmistakable Thai edge. The braise worked its magic, producing wonderfully flavorful morsels of tender beef and thoroughly cooked but totally intact cubes of butternut squash. I had a happy accident along the way (to use a little Bob Ross lingo), when I realized that instead of coconut milk I had inadvertently grabbed a can of coconut cream off the store shelf. No worries — I used it just the same and added a bit more chicken stock to maintain the consistency of my sauce, and the result was, well, really creamy. Here’s the finished product.
Laura and I are in agreement — this one is a definite keeper, and we will certainly make it again as we plunge into the depths of winter. To quote my favorite little shill: “That was amazing!”
Just a final administrative note, since this is a copyrighted recipe and I haven’t sought the author’s permission, I will not relist it at length here — lawyer stuff, and all that. I will, however, do that in future posts for recipes of my own creation, or those which I have modified so heavily as to make them my own — I do that a lot. It’s a rare recipe in my hands that doesn’t get rewired more than a little bit. In any event, if you’re interested in laying hands on this for yourself, here’s a link:
I look forward to our next visit to the kitchen together. Until then: Eat well, my friends!