Bah bah bah bah bah bah…
Of course, in the kitchen that means using pressure cooker. I used to live next door to a chef-instructor, who taught an entire class called Under Pressure. You see, most people (yours truly included) are nervous around pressure cookers. They have a bad rep, stemming from way back in the 70s, when they tended to explode on stove tops everywhere. However, my neighbor told me that pressure cookers came a long way since then where safety is concerned. In fact, she told me, her pressure cooker was one of the most frequently used pieces of equipment in her kitchen. This is when I took notice. Lo and behold, I received a shiny new electric pressure cooker as a holiday gift.
My newest addition was Cuisinart 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker. Shiny… Sleek in silver and black… And yes, intimidating. This is not your mother’s pressure cooker. This one, according to the manual, all but chops the ingredients for you. Programmable, with several different settings, it is supposed to be a one-pot-fits-all kind of gadget. And let me tell you, IT IS. I have tested the handsome fella with my Beef and Vegetable Stew recipe over the weekend. My pressure cooker emerged victorious and not any worse for wear. Consider me a convert.
My recipe called for several cooking techniques, including browning, sauteing and simmering. A good beef stew has to cook for several hours, but my new shiny friend promised to be done in just under 40 minutes. Sigh, I thought… I will have to use many pots and pans, I thought… It can’t possibly be done in 40 minutes, I thought… I was WRONG. The Brown setting browned the beef beautifully. The Saute setting sizzled. The Simmer setting percolated. All inside my silver kitchen genie.
In fact, the only thing that went even remotely differently, is that the pressure took time to increase, delaying the start of the timer. So, my stew took actually about 45 minutes. Gasp! 5 whole minutes over the estimate! Right?! I didn’t think it was a big deal either.
My dinner that night was Beef and Vegetable Stew of unparalleled quality. The beef tender, the sauce unctuous and rich with flavor, the vegetables still intact. Best beef stew I ever made. Hands down. And I make beef stew a LOT in the cold months. I am excited to explore all the things my sleek silver friend can do! But for now, I will leave you with my Beef and Vegetable Stew recipe for electric pressure cooker. If you have one of those gathering dust somewhere, have no fear! Put it to work! Dinner will be ready in no time.
Beef and Vegetable Stew
3 pounds beef chuck roast cut into 1-1/2 to 2 inch pieces
fresh ground pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minceded
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup broth (I used broth I made from Thanksgiving turkey)
2 cups baby carrots
2 cups butternut squash cubes
1 lb small fingerling potatoes, whole
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup frozen peas
1. Season pieces of chuck roast with salt and pepper and reserve. Place the olive oil into the cooking pot of the Cuisinart Pressure Cooker. Select Brown. 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.
2. Select Sauté. 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. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until onions start to soften and are translucent. Stir in the carrots. Sauté vegetables for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chopped garlic and sauté for an additional minute.
3. 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 by half, stir in the tomato paste.
4. Add the reserved beef, bay leaf, and broth to the pot. Select High Pressure. Set timer for 10 minutes. When audible beep sounds use Quick Release Method to release pressure. When float valve drops, remove lid carefully, tilting away from you to allow steam to disperse.
5. Add baby carrots, squash and potatoes to the pot and select High Pressure. Set timer for 10 minutes. When audible beep sounds use Natural Pressure Release Method to release pressure (stew will continue cooking as pressure drops). When float valve drops, remove lid carefully, tilting away from you to allow steam to disperse.
6. To thicken stew, strain the solids from the stew liquid, reserving both (I used the slotted spoon to remove meat and veggies, leaving liquids in the pot). Remove and discard bay leaf. Whisk in softened butter and flour. Bring to a boil by selecting Brown, then select Simmer. Once liquid thickens, stir the meat and carrots back into the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper accordingly. Just before serving, stir in peas.