I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of pressure cooking, of being able to put something in a pot and having it cook in a fraction of the time it normally would. What has always scared me away from it is hearing horror stories about exploding pressure cookers. Even though I had a pressure cooker, I never used it.
Anyway, more recently, I acquired an Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker with tons of safety features (double locking mechanism that doesn’t allow you to open the unit until the pressure drops to zero, etc.) And this pressure cooker truly is idiot-proof. You can brown in it, saute veggies, simmer, pressure cook, you name it. It’s so very simple. It’s just a matter of not filling it too high, making sure there’s a little liquid in there (3/4 cup will do for most things), and setting the timer for whatever you’re trying to make. It does everything else for you – brings it up to pressure, and then when the time is up you can either do a quick release of pressure (stand back, that steam is hot!) or let it depressurize naturally, during which it still continues to cook.
For our inagural use, we adapted slightly a recipe from the book that came with the unit. It was hands down the most tender, tastiest beef stew I’ve had in ages. And the smell when we opened it up? Divine. While the recipe directions are specifically for use with an electric pressure cooker, I’m sure the recipe can be further adapted to work with any pressure cooker. Also, the recipe calls for a buerre manie (butter-flour paste) to thicken the stew, but this did not work for us – we ended up using a traditional flour/water slurry and that did the trick. I’ll leave the original instructions intact for that part just in case it works better for you.
Classic Beef Stew
recipe adapted from Cuisinart CPC-600 Series Recipe Booklet
3 lbs. beef chuck roast, cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
fresh ground pepper
Penzey’s Beef Roast Seasoning
2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1 c. dry red wine
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
3/4 c. beef broth
2 c. baby-cut carrots
1 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour
Season pieces of chuck roast with salt and pepper and beef roast seasoning and reserve. Place the olive oil in the cooking pot of the Cuisinart Electric Pressure cooker. Select Browning. When oil begins to sizzle, add pieces of chuck in a single layer – do not crowd. Continue browning meat in batches until all meat is browned. As meat is browned transfer to a plate. Select Saute. Stir the chopped onions into the pot. With a wooden spoon, scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan that have accumulated while meat was browning. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes, until onions start to soften and are translucent. Stir in the chopped carrots and celery. Saute vegetables for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chopped garlic and saute an additional minute.
Once vegetables are soft, stir in red wine, again scraping any brown bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pot. Cook until red wine has reduced itself by half, then stir in the tomato paste.
Add the reserved beef, bay leaf, garlic cloves, and beef broth to the pot. Select High Pressure. Set timer for 10 minutes. When audible beep sounds use Quick Pressure Release to release pressure. When float valve drops, remove lid carefully, tilting away from you to allow steam to disperse. Add carrots to the pot and select High Pressure. Set timer for 6 minutes. When audible beep sounds use Natural Pressure Release to relese pressure. When float valve drops, remove lid carefully, tilting away from you to allow steam to disperse.
To thicken stew, strain the solids from the stew liquid, reserving both. Remove and discard bay leaf. Blend softened butter and flour to make a paste (buerre manie). Return liquid to pot and bring it to a boil by selecting Brown. Once liquid comes to a boil whisk in the butter/flour mixture. Select Simmer. Once liquid thickens, stir the meat and carrots back into the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper accordingly.
Easy peasy. And the leftovers? The next day, I mixed them with some wagon wheel pasta which soaked up that delicious gravy beautifully, and will be my offering for this weeks Presto Pasta Night blogging event:
So if the only thing that’s holding you back from pressure cooking is the fear of explosion, never fear – today’s pressure cookers (even the non-electric ones) have safety features that make it much less risky than in days of yore. And the time savings? Amazing. I can’t wait to do other things with it as well.