Sunday, September 12, 2010

Short Rib Rendang and Coconut Rice

This short rib rendang was inspired by the version served at Fatty Crab.  The only experience I have with making any sort of rendang was at a cooking class Alex and I took at the Institute of Culinary Education last Christmas, where we made chicken rendang.  So this was something of a novel experiment for me.  I found the actual recipe from Fatty Crab online and was all excited about it until I discovered that it called for all sorts of esoteric ingredients and was overly complicated.  Assam skin and Gula Jawa?  What are those?  Anyways, not going to happen.  So then I looked back over the recipe from our chicken rendang and then looked at a few other recipes online and decided to just throw something together and hope for the best.  I figured there were some ingredients that showed up in all of the recipes (ginger or galangal, chilis, coconut milk, toasted coconut, shallots), and only a few ways to braise short ribs.  How wrong could I possibly go?

My short ribs cannot compete with Fatty Crab's, but that is no surprise.  Fatty Crab is fantastic at putting together very aggressive, funky, delicious flavors and I am nowhere near that skilled (or that bold when it comes to flavoring).  I also had to dial down the spice level of the dish (we only used 3 Thai chilis) because Alex didn't want me to blow any of our friends' tastebuds out with Thai chili peppers.  I wanted to throw in five chilis, but Alex was worried it would get too spicy.  Oh well.  Next time!  For our first attempt at short rib rendang, without a recipe to follow, I think we did a pretty good job!  A little more tweaking and the recipe will be truly fantastic! 

And just as a side note, these short ribs taste even better the next day (like with all braised things) as the flavors have time to concentrate and really infuse the meat while sitting overnight in the braising liquid in the fridge.  We had the ribs for lunch today and they were just that much sweeter and more flavorful so I highly recommend making enough short ribs so that you can eat them as leftovers too!

Recipe after the jump!

Short Rib Rendang

8 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 lemongrass, white part only, trimmed and pounded
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
4-6 fresh Thai chilis (depending on your tolerance for spice, and how hot your peppers are)
4 tbsp peanut oil
2 cinnamon sticks
10 cloves
6 star anise
10 cardamom pods
1 piece dried galangal
5 lbs. beef short ribs (bone-in), cut into cubes
1 lemongrass, white part only, cut into 4-inch piece, trimmed and pounded
2 cans coconut milk
2 cups water
1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
8 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut
3 tbsp palm sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped for garnish (optional)

Combine shallots, 3 lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chilis in a food processor.  Process until everything is finely chopped to form spice paste.  Taste and if you want more heat, add additional chilis.

Heat oil in a very large Le Creuset (or other heavy-bottomed pot suitable for braising) over medium heat.  Add spice paste, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and dried galangal.  Stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Add short ribs and remaining lemongrass.  Turn short ribs to coat in spice paste and cook for 1 minute.  Add coconot milk, water, tamarind concentrate, kaffir lime leaves, toasted coconut, palm sugar, fish sauce, and soy sauce.  Stir to combine.  Bring pot to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to simmer.  Cook short ribs uncovered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until meat is really tender and falling off the bone.  During this time the sauce should reduce dramatically and thicken.  You want the gravy to dry up so that there is very little sauce left in the pot.

Serve short ribs over coconut rice.  Ladle a little of the thickened gravy over the top and serve.  Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Coconut Rice

2 cups basmati rice
1 can coconut milk (about 1 3/4 cups)
3/4 cup water
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Rinse rice under cold water to remove excess starch.  Drain.  Place rice in a 4 quart pot with a tight-fitting lid.  Add coconut milk, water, salt, sugar, and toasted unsweetened coconut.  Stir to combine.  Bring mixture to a boil and boil until liquid reduces to right under the level of the rice.  Cover and reduce heat.  Simmer rice until all liquid has been absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.  Remove from heat, add flaked coconut and fluff rice with a fork.  Cover and let rice hang out for 5 minutes.


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