December 6, 2011

Pressure Cooker Stew

If you have only ever preserved food with a pressure cooker and never actually cooked with it, then you are really missing out. Everyone sings the praises of the slow cooker and not to downplay how yummy a slow cooked meal is, but the pressure cook can double the flavor and knock the time down by a lot - I mean by like hours.

My mom grew up with her mom making stew in the pressure cooker at least once a week for her and her four sisters. My grandma put herself through school and worked so dinner had to be healthy, yummy and quick-ish. Keeping in mind there weren't any fast-food, take-out restaurants back then. The "recipe" got passed down to my mom and now to me. And now to anyone reading this blog.

This recipe is very forgiving. You can add or subtract any veggies you want and add or subtract spices, just remember that the pressure cooker will intensify the flavors, so less spice is better.

Pressure Cooker Stew
Servings = 6
Time = 45 min

1 1/2 lbs stew meat
3 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, sliced
5 garlic cloves, diced
1/2 to 1 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp pepper
4 Tbs all-purpose flour
4 c chicken broth
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch rounds
2 celery stalks, cut in 1/4 inch pieces
4 red potatoes, cut into bite-sized cubes [skins on or off - your choice]
Handful or more button mushrooms

1. Heat olive oil in pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add stew meat, onion and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until meat is browned on all sides, but not done through.
2. Sprinkle flour over meat and stir until the flour is all moist.
3. Pour in chicken broth and add the veggies. Give it all a good stir.
4. Secure pressure cooker lid. Turn heat to high. When the steam is coming out steadily, put the weight on the cooker [read your pressure cooker instructions to see if there are any special steps for your model].
5. Watch the cooker and bring the pressure up to 10lbs or 240 F. Turn off heat. Let it cool to about 5lbs and then remove from heat and let it cool, by itself, until the pressure is back to zero. This is the slowest part of the whole meal - it can take 15 minutes or so to cool down.
6. When pressure is back to zero, remove lid [again, read your cooker's instructions].

Tip - My coworkers heard this tip on NPR for removing the skins from the garlic. I thought it sounded crazy, but had to give it a try. You put the garlic cloves in a bowl and place another bowl against it, to create a hollow middle with the cloves. Then you shake, shake, shake. It worked perfectly - all the skins were off and the cloves were ready to cut. I used glass bowls even though the NPR spot said to use metal.

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