Created by our Chef, Phillip Schaaf
When the first chill of fall sets in, the cravings for comfort food come calling. Rich stews and spicy chili laden with braised meats and root vegetables usually quell these cravings with ease, however, there are times when the heart wants something a bit different. Stepping outside of the box can lead to some life-altering revelations at times. Looking to other cultures' cuisines for the dishes that they identify as comfort foods can open up a whole world of possibilities in the kitchen.
Curry is comfort food in many cuisines. Curry is a very general term, though, as there are hundreds of variations on curry dishes throughout the world. Curry is usually defined as meat and vegetables stewed in a rich and flavorful sauce or gravy. Some curries can be sweeter than others, and some can be downright viciously spicy.
Vindaloo is one such dastardly curry that has become renowned for the intense heat that it is traditionally known for. There have even been poetic odes written to the searing heat this dish is known for. What better way to warm up on a chilly Fall evening than with one of the hottest curries on the planet?
A Comforting Dish
The great thing about making curry at home is that we can cook to our own comfort level with the heat, so there’s no reason to be nervous. Instead of stewed meat in this curry, we are going to use a cut of Bavette, most commonly known as flank steak.
Bavette is a cut of meat that is taken from the abdomen of the animal. As it is a fairly active region, it can be a tough cut of meat if not treated properly. Marinades can help with tenderizing the meat, and careful cooking to ensure a proper internal temperature will likely yield super flavorful results.
In this specific curry dish, we are going to pair this seared vindaloo bavette with spinach and pumpkin. These vegetables will be stewed down in the remaining vindaloo paste and all of this can be served over steamed basmati rice with garlic naan. This dish is so comforting it feels like the whole universe is giving you a bear hug.
What You’ll Need
10 Red dried chilies, or 2 Tbsp red chili powder
2 tsp Coriander, 1.5 tsp Cumin, and 1 tsp fennel
1 tsp black peppercorns, 3 cloves, 1 tsp mustard seed, and 1 cinnamon stick
4 green cardamom pods
3 Tbsp Rice or Cider vinegar
*2 Fresno chilies, or 2 ghost chilies or any other fresh red chili
2” Ginger, peeled and 4 garlic cloves, peeled
Toast all of the whole spices and dried chilies on dry, medium heat. Once they become fragrant, remove them from the heat and let them cool for a bit. Using a spice grinder, grind all of the spiced until they are well incorporated and finely ground.
In a food processor, mince the ginger and garlic. Add the vinegar and the dry spice mixture and process until fully homogenized and a thick paste. If necessary, add water a little bit at a time to adjust the consistency. Store in a jar or other lidded container for up to a week.
What You’ll Need
1 ½ to 2 lb Grass Roots Grass-Fed & Finished Flank Steak
1 ½ Tbsp Vindaloo paste
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
Four hours before cooking, rub the exterior of the meat with the vindaloo paste, coating the surface area on all sides. Liberally season both sides with kosher salt. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before cooking.
Spinach and Pumpkin Curry
What You’ll Need
2 C pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and diced
4 oz fresh spinach
3 plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
½ C vindaloo paste
2 C chicken stock & 1 Tbsp Grapeseed oil
Chopped cilantro and steamed basmati for garnish
In a large, heavy- bottomed pot, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they start to brown a bit. Add the curry paste and cook until it starts to rust, then add the tomatoes. Cook this mixture for another minute or two before adding the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes and then add the pumpkin. This will simmer for about 20 minutes before it is finished. If the sauce starts to get too thick, add water to keep the consistency just right.
As the pumpkin curry simmers, heat a skillet or a griddle on medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil to the cooking surface and heat to the simmering point, just before it starts to smoke. Add the bavette to the pan and cook for about 4- 6 minutes per side depending on how done you want the steak to be. For a perfect medium steak, cook to an internal temperature of 132 degrees and then pull it aside to rest immediately. Barely tented with foil, the steak should carry over a few degrees to the desired temperature.
With the steak resting and the pumpkin done, it is time to finish the curry with the fresh spinach and adjust the final seasoning with salt. Stir the fresh spinach leaves into the simmering curry pot and cook until wilted but still vibrant green. Season to taste with kosher salt at this point and serve with the sliced bavette over a bed of basmati and showered with fresh chopped cilantro.
A Note on Chilies
There are hundreds of chilies to choose from out there. To make it even more confusing, dried chilies are sometimes called by another name than when they are a fresh chili. All of these will have subtle nuances in flavor and heat profiles.
Milder dried chilies:Guajillo, Ancho, Mulate, and Pasilla
Hotter dried chilies: Chiles de Arbol, Cascabel, Ghost & Scorpion
Because this is a red curry, we want to use fresh red chilies for this dish.
Milder fresh red chilies: Red jalapeno and Fresno
Super hot fresh red chilies: Ghost peppers, or Bhut Jolokia, made famous in Indian Cuisine, Scorpion Peppers and Carolina Reapers
Only use chilies that fit inside your heat comfort zone. Remember, we can always add more spice to finish.