This luscious Indonesian dish, from a recipe in James Oseland's book Cradle of Flavor (W.W. Norton, 2006), is traditionally eaten with white rice, but it is also wonderful with crusty Italian bread. This recipe first appeared in our May 2013 issue with James Oseland's article Worth the Wait.
5 whole cloves 1 whole nutmeg, slightly crushed in a mortar and pestle 6-8 red Holland chiles, or 3-4 Thai chiles, stemmed and roughly chopped 6 small shallots, roughly chopped 5 candlenuts or macadamia nuts 3 cloves garlic, peeled 1 2" piece fresh or frozen turmeric, peeled and roughly chopped, or 1 ½ tsp. ground turmeric 1 2" piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced 1 2" piece galangal, peeled and thinly sliced 2 lb. boneless beef chuck, cut into 2" pieces 7 fresh or frozen Kaffir lime leaves, plus 4 very thinly sliced, for garnish 3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, smashed with a mallet, and tied into knots 2 sticks cinnamon 2½ cups unsweetened coconut milk Kosher salt, to taste
1. Pulse cloves and nutmeg in a food processor until very fine. Add chiles, shallots, nuts, garlic, turmeric, ginger, and galangal; purée until a slightly smooth paste forms, about 2 minutes. Transfer paste to a 12" nonstick skillet with beef; using your hands, mix together.
2. Add 7 lime leaves, lemongrass knots, cinnamon, coconut milk, and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring occasionally to prevent coconut milk from scorching, until the consistency of thick pea soup, about 1½ hours. Continue to cook, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until sauce and beef turn a dark caramel color and the sauce coats the beef, 2½-3 hours. Discard whole spices before serving; garnish with thinly sliced lime leaves.