After yesterday's resoundingly successful chicken broth made in less than an hour with the help of my new pressure cooker, I was curious to see what other tricks this magical vessel had up its sleeve. The broth was incredible, but, as chicken breaks down fairly easily, I wanted to try something a little tougher—a cut of meat that takes hours to tenderize under normal circumstances.
For my next pressure-cooking project I settled on Boeuf en Daube Provencal, a French version of beef stew from Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna Sass. The recipe sounded very appealing, with its combination of red wine, anchovies, and oil-cured black olives, and the cut of meat called for (boneless chuck or round) was tough enough to put the pressure cooker to the test. I was keen to see if the gadget would be able to render the beef tender and stew-worthy in 16(!) minutes.
This is another stew recipe that calls for no browning, which I was concerned might take away from the richness of the flavor. In this case the meat in marinated in red wine, herbs, tomato paste, and anchovies for a few hours or overnight. I marinated mine for just about an hour due to the time constraints of getting dinner on the table at a reasonable hour. Once everything went into the cooker and the correct amount of pressure was reached I set the timer for 16 minutes.
After the pressure dropped I unlocked the lid and found something that looked a whole lot like a prefect pot of stew. The meat was falling apart tender and the flavors were deep and earthy. The only problem was that the liquid didn't thicken quite as much as it should for a dish such as this. Sass rectifies of this issue by adding a small amount of cornstarch, and it thickened up in a matter of minutes with no tell tale signs of the cornstarch cheat.
Over steaming bowls of stew my dining partner commented that "the stew was so good, it was kind of crazy that it had only taken a little over half an hour total." It was much better than many of the stews that I've simmered for hours on end. This made me question my past stews, of course, but also wonder why its taken me so long to get my hands on a pressure cooker.
Win Make it Fast, Cook it Slow
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Cooking Under Pressure to give away this week.
- 2 cups drinking-quality red wine
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 to 5 anchovy fillet, packed in olive oil, drained, and mashed (optional)
- 2 1/2 pounds boneless chuck or round, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes, trimmed of excess fat
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1/3 cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 large carrots, peeled (leave whole)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Combine the wine, thyme, bay tomato paste, and mashed anchovies (if using) in a large nonaluminum bowl or storage container. Add the beef, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
Heat the oil in the cooker. Add the onion and cook over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Holding the beef cubes to one side, pour the wine marinade into the cooker and boil it over high heat until it reduces somewhat, about 5 minutes.
Add the beef and stir in the olives (if using) plus salt (you are likely to need more if you haven't used the olives and anchovies) and pepper to taste. Set the carrots on top.
Lock the lid in place and over high heat bring to high pressure. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure and cook for 16 minutes. Let the pressure drop naturally, about 10 minutes. Do not use the quick-release method. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to release.
Test the beef for doneness. If it is not sufficiently tender, lock the lid back into place and return to high pressure for a few more minutes. Again, let the pressure drop naturally.
Slash the carrots into chunks, Stir in the parsley. To thicken the sauce, dissolve the cornstarch in 1 tablespoon of water and stir it in. Boil gently, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning before serving.