recipe request: braised beef shanks and oxtail stew with lemongrass and thai basil
I went to this restaurant yesterday and had the most delicious stew ever. It was braised beef shanks and oxtail stew with lemongrass and thai basil. I was in a rush, and it was dark, so I couldn't ask/figure out the recipe. But now I'd like to make this for my girlfriend, and I've been searching all over the internet and can't find a similar recipe.
Can anyone help? My guess is that I first fry the beef shanks and oxtail until both sides are brown, then I fry the lemongrass (do I need to cut it into tiny pieces? Or keep it as is and remove it at the end?) with some garlic, maybe some ginger, and god knows what else. THen I add some beef stock (maybe some wine or beer? Do I also add water as the meat should make a stew by itself?), let it come to a boil, and finally add the beef to it and put the pot either in the oven at some temperature for some amount of time I don't know, or just leave it on the stove (or maybe even a crockpot) for X hours.
So, anybody has any idea how to make this complete/perfect?
Here's how I would break it down:
Typically you season the meat and then sear it to develop the flavors from browning (Maillard reaction, if you're a scientific kind of guy). Then you would give your aromatics a quick saute just to brown them just a little. Add all of this to a pot and cover with your braising liquid (for beef you probably want veal stock and a straight red wine reduction; no water unless you want no flavor). Bring slowly to a simmer, cover with a parchment paper lid, and stick it in a 275 degree over for a couple hours, until tender. Once its done you can let the meat cool overnight in the liquid and reheat the next day (braises can get better by doing this, but its not necessary).
Although I haven't worked with lemongrass, I would assume it is ok to leave whole as its just a flavor component. As far as basil is concerned, add it at the end of cooking, because long cooking times destroy the flavor of basil.
If your looking for ratios of lemongrass and basil to add to the braise, I would check out what other similar recipes are using and try to use those as a jumping off point.
Reduce the wine first (and much more than half, you want it to coat the back of a spoon), then mix that with the veal stock, and use that as your braising liquid to cook the meat. After the meat is cooked, you can further reduce the braising liquid to a sauce consistency to serve with the dish.
What else could you taste in this stew? Any additional vegetables? Any additional flavors? Any other aromatics? Ginger? Oxtail and shanks boned or left on bone?
The lemongrass I would pound with the flat of a knife and then slice into rounds to afford the most surface area to extract its aromatics, but only if the original dish was really strong. You can either filter this out after braise (reassembling the meat and filtered liquid to sit overnight as already suggested) or tie up the lemongrass in a little bit of cheesecloth that can simply be removed. If filtering, use a fat separator to save a step later.
Fresh basil at the end; you could throw in the basil stalks during braising but you'll need fresh leaves to finish prior to service.
Unfortunately I didn't pay much attention to the stew I was eating. It was very late, I was very rushed, and extremely hungry, so I just chugged it down but I did notice that it was nothing short of delicious. So I don't know what additional flavors or vegetables it had... I don't recall seeing any big chunks of vegetables. There was definitely bone there, that I remember.
I think some kind of tomato component would probably add a nice richness and depth of flavor - whether it be a tablespoon of tomato paste or a couple of chopped tomatoes thrown in. Either way both caramelized in a bit of oil along with your aromatics before stewing.