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Pressure Cooker Mexican Beef

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For the past couple of years, I’ve been making Oven Braised Mexican Beef at least twice a month because it’s simple and delicious—and because the kids’ll actually eat it. But here’s a dirty little secret: these days, I rarely braise it in the oven ’cause I can get similar results in a fraction of the time using a pressure cooker.

I’ve extolled the virtues of pressure cooking before, but it’s truly become one of my favorite cooking methods. (I love pretty much anything that helps me get satisfying meals on the table before I have to rush off to the hospital.) My trusty stovetop pressure cookers have been workhorses in my kitchen for some time now, but I recently treated myself to an Instant Pot because I’d read so many great things about this electric programmable multi-cooker. Also: I’m a gadget hoarder.

In fact, I’m such a hoarder that I’d neglected to break out my Instant Pot for months after buying it. It sat in a box in my garage for months before I managed to de-clutter my kitchen enough to make room for it.

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And now, I’m totally crushing on my Instant Pot. I love that I can make bone broth at a moment’s notice without having to babysit it like a stove-top pressure cooker. Also, the sauté function lets me brown aromatics or meat right in the pot before I throw in the rest of the ingredients. Yippee!

One thing to note: The Instant Pot cooks at a slightly lower pressure (11.6 psi) than my stove top pressure cookers (15 psi), but that just means having to add a few minutes to the cooking time. I increase the cooking time by 7 to 15%, and refer to my friend Laura Pazzaglia’s Hip Pressure Cooking website and charts for specific cooking times. If you’re at all a fan of pressure cooking, I suggest that you do the same. One more thing: even though the dish is finished in about an hour, I often don’t serve it ’til the next day. There’s a scientific reason why stews and braises taste better as leftovers.

So with all of that out of the way, wanna see how I’ve modified my Mexican Beef recipe to work in a pressure cooker?

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Forky Friday: 3/1/13

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Today’s edition of Forky Friday is devoted entirely to pressure cooking! As a busy working mom, I often turn to my trusty pressure cooker to get meat and veggies on the table in a flash. Some days, I’ve got multiple pressure cookers on the burners at the same time. Loyal readers know that I never sacrifice flavor for speed, but I’m delighted to report that with a pressure cooker, I get both.

Still a skeptic? I’ve got lots of links in this post that’ll (hopefully) persuade you to take the plunge. Here we go!

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Whole30 Day 16: Pressure Cooker Indian Curry Lamb Spareribs

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Once upon a time (about 300 years ago), a French mathematician named Denis Papin was living and working in London. Papin was a tinkerer. After putting in long days as an assistant to a physicist, the Frenchman worked on his own inventions — the most enduring of which was something he called a “steam digester”: a cast iron container with a tight-sealing, screw-top lid and a release valve that could be heated over red-hot coals. The purpose of the device? To cook and tenderize food in a flash.

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Papin’s steam digester was a closed environment that was designed to heat water under intense pressure, pushing its boiling point far above the normal 212°F. When the device was heated, the pressure from the steam would raise the internal temperature up to 257°F, forcing the steam — a fantastically efficient heat conductor — through foods, thus shortening the cooking time by as much as two-thirds. What’s more, with all the liquids retained in the pot, the resulting dishes were moist and bursting with concentrated flavors.

Papin was excited about his invention, and unveiled his new “engine for softening bones” before the Royal Society of London — the oldest and most prestigious geek squad known to man. He proudly noted that “the hardest cow-beef may be made as tender and savoury as young and choice meat,” making the steam digester ideal for speedy, cost-effective cooking — as well as for the “making of drinks, chemistry, and dyeing.”  

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But Papin’s steam digester wasn’t quite ready for prime time. It required a specially-built furnace, and despite the addition of a safety valve, pressurized explosions weren’t uncommon. The steam digester never really caught on. Dejected after years of fruitless attempts to turn people onto pressure cooking, Papin never even bothered to patent his invention, and he died penniless in 1712.

This may be three centuries too late, but Denis Papin: I salute you.

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Pressure Cooker Lamb Shanks

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On blustery nights when my teeth are chattering, there are few things that make me happier than tucking into a steaming bowl of braised lamb shanks. It’s not just because it’s rib-sticking comfort food, but also ‘cause it reminds me of my dad and our shared love for lamb dishes. I don’t, however, share his stoicism and zen-like patience, so I’m always on the lookout for quick and easy ways to prepare lamb.

Here’s a recipe that fits the bill. Thanks to my pressure cooker, I can get a hearty winter meal of lamb shanks onto the dinner table in less than an hour.

Follow the jump for the recipe!

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Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs

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Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

In the kitchen, one plus one can equal much more than three. By combining ingredients packed with umami (mushrooms! beef! tomatoes!), you can exponentially increase the mouth-filling savoriness of your final dish. Here’s an example in the form of a comforting, fork-tender stew — and with a pressure cooker, it can be on the table in less than an hour.

Here’s what to gather to feed 4-6 people:

  • 5 pounds grass fed short ribs, cut into 3- to 4-inch segments
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • ½ ounce porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon lard or fat of choice
  • 1 large onion, chopped medium
  • 3 carrots, chopped medium
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped medium
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 cup marinara sauce (I like Rao’s marinara sauce)
  • ½ cup bone broth
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, divided
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
Here’s how you make it:

Season the short ribs liberally with salt and pepper.

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

If you’d like, you can do this step the night before and store the seasoned ribs in the fridge. Salting early helps amplify the flavor.

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl…

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and cover with boiling water until softened (15-30 minutes).

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Take out your 8-quart or larger pressure cooker and melt the lard over medium high heat. Sear the ribs in batches until well-browned…

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and transfer them to a platter.

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

While the ribs are browning, chop up the veggies…

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and toss the onions, carrots and celery into the empty pot. Lower the heat to medium, season with salt and pepper, and sauté the vegetables until softened. 

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Fish out the softened mushrooms and squeeze out the liquid. You can reserve the mushroom water to use in place of broth, but I personally find it a little muddy tasting.

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Coarsely chop up the mushrooms….

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and toss them in the pot along with the garlic. Stir the pot for another minute…

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and add in the marinara sauce, broth, and 1 tablespoon of the balsamic vinegar.

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Add the ribs back into the pot, mixing well.

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Increase the heat to high and bring the stew to a boil. Cover the pressure cooker with the lid and let the contents come to high pressure.

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Once the pot reaches high pressure, decrease the heat to low and maintain on high pressure for 30 minutes. Then, take the pot off the heat and let the pressure come down naturally (10-15 minutes).

When the pressure is released, add the remaining tablespoon of vinegar and check for seasoning. You can eat the stew right away, but I think it tastes much better after the flavors have had a chance to meld overnight in the fridge. Plus, it’s easier to peel off the layer of fat when it’s hardened.

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

To reheat the stew, dump it in a pot, and bring to a boil. 

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Simmer the stew for at least 20 minutes and top with minced parsley.

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Try this recipe — I guarantee you’ll like it. There’s no need to be afraid of pressure cookers! 

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Pressure Cooker Porcini and Tomato Beef Short Ribs by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com


Looking for recipes and resources? Head on over to my Recipe Index or my Resources page. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPad® app, and in my cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel, December 2013).