Charles Phan's Lemongrass Beef Stew

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[Photograph: Eric Wolfinger]

Braised short ribs are one of those no-brainer wintertime comfort foods. Easy to prep, slow to cook, and luscious to eat, the well-marbled cut of beef tastes great simmered in just about anything—from tomato-based Italian broths to beer and beef broth.

In Charles Phan's Vietnamese Home Cooking, Phan presents a French-influenced stew laced with lemongrass, ginger, star anise, and Thai chiles. Alongside the short ribs, he braises (not-surprising) carrots and (more curious) daikon radish to add sweetness and texture to the beef. And a bonus? The brothy, rich sauce is wonderful on its own should you "accidentally" eat all of the beef out of the stew first.

Why I picked this recipe: I really can't say no to braised short ribs; the fragrant lemongrass and anise broth is just a bonus.

What worked: Everything here, from the broth to the vegetables to the beef, is spot on. Don't change a thing.

What didn't: Nothing.

Suggested tweaks: I don't own a clay pot for stewing, so I just made the whole dish, start to finish, in my Dutch oven. This worked just fine. When I served the stew, I poured it over noodles. It would work just as well over rice or simply with a big loaf of bread.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Vietnamese Home Cooking to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer out of Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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