Beef Stew with lemongrass

Typically enjoyed with a baguette, bò kho is an iconic Viet-Franco dish. The traditional version requires a lengthy simmer, which has deterred me from making it more often. But I discovered that a pressure cooker shortens the cooking time to a good hour, and the traditional marinating period isn’t needed. Suddenly, the Vietnamese classic became doable for a weeknight.

Bread and bò kho are great friends, but you can also serve the stew over boiled egg or rice noodles (select pappardelle-size noodles, such as A Taste of Thai brand). Add a green salad for a complete meal. This stew develops fabulous flavor when made one or two days ahead. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. this recipe is so easy and yummy!

2 pounds trimmed boneless beef chuck, cut into 1½-inch chunks

1½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder

2 teaspoons packed light or dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more as needed

2 to 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons finely chopped peeled ginger

1 cup chopped shallot or yellow onion

1½ cups canned crushed tomatoes in puree, or 2 cups chopped peeled tomatoes

2 large or 3 medium stalks lemongrass, trimmed, cut into 3-inch lengths, and bruised with a meat mallet or heavy saucepan

1 bay leaf

2 whole star anise (16 robust points total)

Fine sea salt

2 to 2½ cups water

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, mint, or basil

In a large bowl, combine the beef, five-spice powder, brown sugar, and fish sauce and stir to coat. Set aside.

Warm a 6-quart pressure cooker over high heat until very hot. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons of the canola oil and then, in three batches, sear the beef on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes total (don’t expect deep browning since the meat is wettish); transfer the seared beef to a plate. Add oil between batches as needed; and as you sear, reserve any leftover marinade in its bowl. (To sear the beef in a multicooker, choose a high heat setting, such as Brown on the Fagor Lux, or adjust the Sauté function on the Instant Pot.)

Turn the heat to medium-low, then add the garlic, ginger, and shallot. Continue cooking, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes, until no longer raw smelling. Add the tomatoes, lemongrass, bay leaf, star anise, and ½ teaspoon salt, then turn the heat to high. Let simmer and bubble for 4 to 6 minutes, until the mixture resembles a rough wet paste, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. (If using a multicooker, lower the heat setting to cook the aromatics, then raise it again for the tomato and other ingredients. Between heat adjustments, you may have to turn off the machine.)

Return the beef, its juice, and any reserved marinade to the cooker, give them a big stir, and add enough of the water to cover the beef. Lock the lid in place. Bring to high pressure, adjust the heat to maintain pressure, and cook for 10 minutes. Then, remove from the heat, depressurize naturally for 15 minutes, and release the residual pressure. (If using a multicooker, add enough water to barely cover the meat, program the machine to cook at high pressure for 10 minutes, turn it off or unplug it, and depressurize for 18 minutes before releasing residual pressure.)

Unlock the cooker. The beef should be chewy-tender; when you press on a chunk, it should yield but still feel firm. Skim off the fat, if needed, and add the carrots. Return to a swift simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until the beef and vegetables are both tender and the sauce flavors have intensified. (On a multicooker, choose a medium- or low-heat setting, such as Sauté or Simmer on the Fagor Lux, or adjust the Sauté function on the Instant Pot.) Let the stew rest, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and, if needed, add more salt or fish sauce to intensify the flavor or splash in the water to lighten it. Divide the stew among shallow bowls, removing and discarding the lemongrass, bay leaf, and star anise, and garnish with the cilantro.

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