Ever have unexpected guests show up for dinner? Such was the case when my husband failed to tell me he had invited some friends to dinner. “It was a casual invitation,” he said. “I didn’t think they had accepted.”
We had just gotten back from doing errands on Saturday when the call came and Andrew’s friend said he and his wife would be arriving at 7. “Great,” Andrew stammered. “Looking forward to seeing you.” That gave me, who wasn’t looking so forward, about two and a half hours to get dinner ready. Read more
Keeping with my seasonal-cooking bent, I chose on Sunday to make a stew of beef short ribs, mushrooms, and potatoes from Jacques Pepin’s Fast Food My Way. I selected this particular recipe for two reasons: 1) it’s fall, the perfect time for short ribs; 2) the shortened cooking time made possible by the pressure cooker.
Fortunately, I was able to find some beautiful, thick, and relatively lean bone-in short ribs at my local market. The recipe called for 2 pounds of meat (4 ribs) “as lean and meaty as possible.” Mine weighed about 2.4 pounds. The other ingredients were similarly easy to find, even the dried shiitake mushrooms, which were surprisingly small. I was off to a good start.
The prep was also straightforward: trimming the meat, chopping the onion and the parsley, breaking the mushrooms in half and removing the stems, washing the potatoes, etc. Next was browning the meat, a simple task in an electric pressure cooker. All that was left was to add the remaining ingredients to the pot, lock the lid, set the cooker to high-pressure for 30 minutes.
Of course, as with any pressure-cooker recipe, there’s the wait time for the cooker to reach full pressure. So altogether the cooking time was 45 or 50 minutes, during which time the aroma from the stew whetted our appetites. Because I was craving carbs, I also prepared some whole-wheat couscous as a side even though the stew had plenty of potatoes.
The timer went off; I released the pressure, carefully lifted the lid, and wow everything looked perfect.
The mushrooms, which as directed by the recipe had not been soaked, were wonderfully chewy and packed with flavor; the potatoes were smooth and silky and had absorbed the cooking juices; the ribs. . .Well, that’s another story.
After taking his first bite of the meat, my husband shot me a glance that immediately let me know something wasn’t right. So I took a bite and yep; something was definitely wrong. The flavor was exceptional, beefy and woodsy from the mushrooms; but the texture was tough, far from tender.
I’m not sure what went wrong; maybe the ribs were too thick; perhaps I should have extended the cooking time by another 15 minutes. Not being an expert with the pressure cooker, I’m not certain. Most of the cookbooks I checked afterwards seemed to agree with Pepin’s 30 minutes.
Thankfully, we had two ribs with loads of sauce, mushrooms, and potatoes left over. I was determined to get a better meal the next time around. So yesterday, Monday, I decided to reheat the stew in a small enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, covered and placed on a very low flame for an hour. To provide some moisture, I added a good splash of the same white wine I had used the night before.
I’m happy to report that this time the meat was perfectly tender and, as is often the case with left-over stew, even more richly flavored. I’ll definitely make this recipe again, but more than likely, I’ll forego the pressure cooker in favor of my dependable cast-iron Dutch oven—even if it takes 4 times as long to cook.
2 pounds beef short ribs (4 ribs) as lean and meaty as possible (I used about 2.4 pounds.)
1 tablespoon canola oil
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, and caps broken in half
12 small Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 pound total) peeled or unpeeled
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps broken in half (Do not soak; becuase mine were so small, I used 12.)
1 1/2 cups chopped (1 inch) onions
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1-Remove any surface fat and sinews from the short ribs. Place them in a pressure cooker with oil and brown over high heat for about 8 minutes, turning occasionally, until well browned on all sides. Remove from the heat and pour off any fat.
2-Add the mushrooms, then the remaining ingredients, except the parsley, and cover tightly with the pressure-cooker lid. Cook over high heat until the gauge indicates that the stew is cooking on high pressure. Reduce the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 30 minutes.
3-Decompress the pressure cooker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Open the pressure cooker and taste for seasonings, adding additional salt and pepper if needed. Divide the stew among four warmed soup plates, sprinkle with parsley, and serve immediately.
As with any pressure-cooker recipe, be sure to follow the instructions of your cooker’s manufacturer.
Long, long ago when I was in graduate school and living in my first apartment, I started to have dinner parties. My guests were fellow students all of whom shared a love of food that was only constrained by our limited budgets. Each of us had a specialty: mine, of course, was Italian food, inspired by my family’s menus. Others ventured into French or vegetarian or Indian.
Granted, the authenticity of some of our dishes might not have met the more stringent standards of today’s foodies, but nevertheless they were quite tasty. Among the most delicious of these was my friend Leslie’s chicken curry that was always served with rice and Major Grey’s chutney along with a bottle of the then ubiquitous and affordable Schwarze Katz wine, a semi-dry Riesling blend.
The dish I’m writing about today brought back these memories of meals shared with fellow scholars on a budget. Given the ingredients and method of cooking, however, I fear that my kitchen credibility may be called into question by some of my readers.But this chicken curry has become one of my quick-meal, easy clean-up, comfort-food staples perfect for a mid-week late night dinner. My recipe is roughly based on Lorna Sass’s “Curry in a Hurry” in her book Pressure Perfect.
Pressure-Cooker Chicken Curry
3 pounds skin-on bone-in chicken thighs, well trimmed of excess skin and fat Madras curry powder, to taste Salt, to taste 1 medium yellow onion, chopped 1 12.5-ounce jar Maya Kaimal Madras Curry Indian Simmer Sauce
1. Sprinkle the underside of the trimmed chicken thighs with the curry powder and salt to taste.
2. Place the chopped onion in a pressure cooker followed by the chicken thighs. I make two layers of chicken, starting with skin-side down for the bottom layer and then going to skin-side up for the top layer.
3. Pour in a jar of the simmer sauce making sure to evenly distribute it over the chicken.
4. Lock the lid and and bring the cooker to high pressure, following the instructions of your cooker’s manufacturer. More often than not I use my electric pressure cooker, which facilitates bringing the pot to pressure. For stove-top cookers, Sass’s recipe recommends bringing the cooker to high pressure over high heat and then reducing the heat just enough to maintain high pressure.
5. Cook at high pressure for 8 minutes and then let the pressure release naturally for 4 minutes followed by quick release if necessary. Be careful of the steam, when removing the lid of your pressure cooker. If the chicken is not tender, simmer covered until done. If there is too much fat, you may wish to skim it from the top before serving.
Even in summer, I occasionally enjoy a hearty dish like stew—especially on a dark and stormy night or when life’s been unfair and only comfort food can make it better. On one of those days, an easy and relatively quick lamb and white-bean stew from Jacques Pépin’s Fast Food My Wayseemed to fit the bill.
What especially appealed to me about the dish is that it’s made in a pressure cooker and did not require browning the meat. Using the pressure cooker not only kept the kitchen cool but also made it possible to use dried beans without any overnight soaking.
Pressure Cooker Lamb and White-Bean Stewfrom Jacques Pépin Fast Food My Way
4 shoulder lamb chops (about 2 pounds total), trimmed of fat
1 1/2 cups (about 1/2 pound) dried white beans, such as navy or great northern, picked over and washed under cold running water (I opted for great northern.)
2 cups canned diced tomatoes
1 cup diced (1-inch) onion
1 cup diced (1-inch) trimmed and washed leek
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
1 sprig fresh thyme and 1 sprig fresh sage, or 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence (I used the thyme and sage.)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 cups cold water
Put all the ingredients in a pressure cooker, cover tightly with the pressure-cooker lid, and cook over high heat until the gauge indicates that the stew is cooking on high pressure. Reduce the heat to low and cook the stew for 40 minutes. (I used an electric pressure cooker set on high and set the timer for 40 minutes.)
Decompress the pressure cooker according to manufacturer’s instructions. I do mine in the sink so the steam is contained somewhat as it is emitted. Open the pressure cooker and let the stew rest for a few minutes until the fat rises to the surface. Spoon off and discard as much fat as possible and taste the stew for seasonings, adding more salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot. (After the 40 minutes cooking time, I let stew rest a few minutes and then used my pressure cooker’s quick release valve.)
In his introduction to the recipe, Pepin advises to use the full 3 cups of water so that the beans will cook properly. Consequently, this makes for a rather thin sauce that is perfect for sopping up with crusty bread or, as I did, with couscous.
As some of you may know, I’m a fan of the pressure cooker for weeknight suppers—especially when getting home after 7. It allows me to prepare comfort food quickly and with minimal effort. Nevertheless, I have shied away from using it for pasta dishes, until I came across a recipe titled “Weeknight Meat Sauce with Rigatoni” in America’s Test Kitchen’s Pressure Cooker Perfection with a cooking-under-pressure time of 5 minutes.
What appealed to me most about the recipe was that, unlike so many that abound for pressure cooker pasta, it wasn’t loaded with cheese and seemed to allow for an al dente pasta by finishing its cooking without the lid after the steam was released.
I’m sure that my purist friends will balk at this recipe and may question my loyalty to authentic Italian cooking.To them, I must concede that the end product of the recipe has far too much sauce for my liking. Indeed, it calls for 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes, a 14.5 ounce of can diced tomatoes drained, and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.Moreover, I was disappointed that it uses oregano and red-pepper flakes while its introduction claims its goal was a “sauce with the flavors of a Bolognese” is misleading.
Despite these weak points, I was pleased with how this dish turned out. Creminimushrooms, which were browned along with chopped onion, were a nice complement to the ground beef, adding to the meatiness of the sauce. I also added some ground nutmeg to the browned meat as I do when preparing a traditional ragù Bolognese.
Although I know I will never achieve the heights of a true ragù, I plan to experiment with this recipe after the holidays, using more traditional ingredients and definitely far less tomato.
Soup was on the menu last night. Nothing fancy, nothing exotic, nothing international, just plain, old-fashioned chicken noodle soup. Time constraints, however, led me to my pressure cooker, which considerably reduces the cooking time and, in my opinion, turns out a tastier, clearer soup than conventional methods.
My recipe came from one of my go-to books for this type of cooking: Pressure Cooker Perfectionfrom America’s Test Kitchen. Although the recipe at first glance would lead one to believe that the soup would be ready in 20 minutes (the time under pressure), in real time, including prep and cooking the noodles, it took about an hour. One ingredient, specifically soy sauce, gave me some pause, but it actually gave the soup a deeper meat flavor. And extra-wide egg noodles cooked in the finished broth added extra body.
Farmhouse Chicken Noodle Soup Adapted from Pressure Cooker Perfection by America’s Test Kitchen
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used extra-virgin olive oil.)
1 onion, chopped fine (I used a large yellow onion.)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
8 cups water (I had to reduce the amount of water for my pressure cooker to avoid over filling by about a cup and a half. I compensated for the difference when I cooked the noodles in the broth.)
4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 celery ribs, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 (4 -pound) whole chicken, giblets discarded (I opted for an organic bird. I think they have more flavor.)
Salt and pepper
4 ounces (2 2/3 cups) wide egg noodles (I used extra wide.)
1/4 cup minced parsley
Heat oil in pressure cooker pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion (and a pinch of salt) and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. (Be careful not to brown the garlic.)
Stir in water, carrots, celery, and soy sauce, scraping up any browned bits.
Season chicken with salt and pepper and place, breast-side up, in the pot. (Putting the chicken breast side up ensures more even cooking of the chicken. After adding the chicken, be sure that the contents of the pot do not exceed the max fill level of your pressure cooker.)
Lock pressure cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure over medium-high heat. As soon as the pot reaches high pressure, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure.
Remove pot from heat. Quick release pressure, then carefully remove the lid, allowing steam to escape away from you. (Follow your pressure cooker’s manual for quick-release instructions.)
Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred meat into bite-size pieces, discarding skin and bones. (I went for big chunks of chicken.)
Using a large spoon, skim excess fat from the surface of the soup. Bring soup to boil, stir in noodles, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Stir in shredded chicken and parsley, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.