When the kids were young, a pressure cooker allowed me to get dinner on the table in quick order. They’d pull up little chairs and watch as the shiny pot rattled, sizzled and hissed on the stove. Opening the pot called for oohs and aahs. Soon tender stews, brothy soups and hearty chili graced the family table.
Truth be told, I was always a little nervous as the hot pressure rendered beef and pork into tender bits. Family stories of mashed potatoes plastered on the ceiling (when the pot was opened before the pressure dropped) didn’t ease my mind. When the seal on the pot cracked, I pitched the whole thing.
This year a 6-quart Instant Pot joined the family. This multipurpose electric appliance proves far easier to use than my old stovetop pressure cooker. It could also replace my rice cooker and my slow cooker, but it’s the tenderizing qualities of cooking under pressure that interest me. Suddenly, the relatively inexpensive, but long-cooking, pot roasts and stews beckoned.
How about a red wine pot roast to nourish us through the last days of winter? Then, my husband reminded me that we used to cook our St. Patrick’s Day corned beef in the old pressure cooker. Perfectly tender beef ready in about 1 hour for serving thinly sliced with vegetables cooked in the delicious pot juices.
Cooking both the corned beef and the pot roast in the pressure cooker saves nearly 2 hours of time versus cooking in the oven. Even more if compared with a slow cooker. The results are equally delicious. The only limitation comes from the size of the pressure cooker — the 6-quart version holds a 3 to 3 1/4 pound roast serving six.
When my daughter mentioned rice pudding, I immediately started experimenting on recipes for the Instant Pot. A batch takes a mere 10 minutes — 3 of those under pressure — and yields perfectly tender, not mushy grains of rice. Too good, really. My refrigerator now holds several containers of tempting pudding.
Cooking under pressure is not magic — you still need to apply the rules of good cooking: First, read the owners manual and safety tips. Don’t overfill the pot. Be careful that the cord is out of reach of small hands and the dog. Always check the steam release valve and the sealing ring to be sure they are in working order. Then, read the recipe through thoroughly before starting.
For deep flavor, such as for meats and onions, allow time to develop the browning. You can do this in your pot with a saute function or use a skillet on the stovetop.
The pressure cooker will not replace my beautiful gas range or my supply of heavy cast-iron pots and Dutch ovens. But, when the new grandbaby or the bicycle beckon, it’s good to know a comforting one-pot meal is no pressure at all.
No pressure cooker? No problem! I’m including oven and stovetop directions, too.
SWEET MUSTARD-GLAZED CORNED BEEF SUPPER
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 1/4 hours
Makes: 6 servings
3 cups low-sodium beef broth or water
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons whole grain or Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon each, dried: thyme, rosemary
1 corned beef brisket, about 3 1/2 pounds
1 large yellow onion, halved, thickly sliced
1 pound small new potatoes, scrubbed clean
1 pound skinny carrots, peeled, cut into 2-inch lengths
1/2 medium head green cabbage, cut into 1-inch wedges
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1. Mix broth, garlic, 1 tablespoon of the mustard, peppercorns, thyme and rosemary in the insert pot of a pressure cooker. Add corned beef, fat side up; top with onion.
2. Close and lock the lid. Be sure to seal the pressure valve. Use manual pressure cooking setting to cook on high pressure, 55 minutes. Let pressure drop naturally by following the pot instructions; don’t quick release.
3. When the pressure has dropped, open the pot and add potatoes and carrots. Close and lock the lid; set to cook on high, 8 minutes. Then use the quick release function to drop the pressure. Add the cabbage. Close and lock the lid; set to cook on high, 1 minute. Then use the quick release function to drop the pressure.
4. Heat broiler in oven. Use a slotted spoon to transfer vegetables to a deep serving platter. Put corned beef on a baking sheet. Mix brown sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon mustard in small dish. Spread over top of corned beef. Broil 6 inches from heat source, until glazed, about 2 minutes.
5. Transfer corned beef to a cutting board. Slice very thinly across the grain. Spoon a ladleful of the hot cooking liquid over the vegetables. Arrange sliced beef on the platter with the vegetables. Serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 680 calories, 40 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, 145 mg cholesterol, 34 g carbohydrates, 12 g sugar, 43 g protein, 3,529 mg sodium, 6 g fiber
Oven method: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Increase broth by 1 cup in step 1 above, and place it with the mustard and other seasonings in a large Dutch oven. Add meat and onion. Cover tightly and bake, turning meat occasionally, until nearly tender when pierced with a fork, about 2 1/2 hours. Add potatoes and carrots; cook until fork-tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add cabbage; cook until crisp-tender, about 15 minutes. Finish recipe as directed in steps 4 and 5.
RED WINE POT ROAST WITH CARROTS, PEPPERS AND GNOCCHI
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 1 1/2 hours
Makes: 6 servings
1 boneless beef chuck roast, 3 pounds, 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick
3 tablespoons grapeseed, sunflower or safflower oil
1 medium (6 ounces) onion, halved, thickly sliced
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon each, dried: rosemary, thyme, oregano
1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 3-inch chunks
1/2 pound mini sweet peppers, about 8, stems removed, left whole
1/4 cup flour (or 3 tablespoons arrowroot or 2 tablespoons cornstarch)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 package (16 to 17 ounces) potato gnocchi
1. Pat meat dry. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the inner pot of a pressure cooker on saute function. Add onion; saute, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer onion to a bowl.
2. Add meat; saute on the “more” setting, flipping once, until richly browned on both sides, about 15 minutes total. Remove meat; season it well with salt and pepper.
3. With the pot still on saute, stir in the wine and heat to a boil. Add broth, garlic and herbs. Nestle the meat and onion into the pot.
4. Close and lock the lid. Be sure to seal the pressure valve. Use manual pressure cooker setting to cook, 55 minutes. Then use the quick release function to drop the pressure. Be careful not to splatter yourself with hot steam.
5. Open the Instant Pot; add the carrots and peppers. Close the pot and lock the lid. Cook under pressure, 8 minutes. Then use the quick release function to drop the pressure.
6. Heat a large saucepan of salted water to a boil to cook the gnocchi.
7. Use a slotted spoon to remove cooked vegetables to a bowl; cover and keep warm. Use tongs to transfer meat to a cutting board, leaving the liquid in the pot. Tent the meat with foil; let rest while you make the gravy and cook the gnocchi.
8. For the pan gravy, dissolve the flour in 1/4 cup water in a small dish. Stir in the tomato paste until smooth. Set the pressure cooker with the liquid to the saute function. When it boils, whisk in the flour mixture. Cook, whisking, until the liquid boils again and thickens, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with about 1 teaspoon of salt and plenty of black pepper. Turn off cooker.
9. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling salted water. Cook until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain well; toss in a serving bowl with remaining 1 tablespoon oil.
10. Thinly slice the meat and arrange it on a warm serving platter. Set the vegetables around the meat. Ladle hot pan gravy over all. Garnish with parsley. Serve with the gnocchi.
Nutrition information per serving: 507 calories, 21 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 144 mg cholesterol, 29 g carbohydrates, 7 g sugar, 48 g protein, 391 mg sodium, 4 g fiber
Stovetop and oven method: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Follow steps 1 through 3 above using a large Dutch oven to brown the onions and meat. Then cover the pot tightly, and bake until meat is nearly tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 2 hours. Add the carrots and peppers to the pot. Cover and bake until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Finish the recipe as directed in steps 6 through 10 above.
RICE PUDDING WITH CARAMELIZED PINEAPPLE
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 5 minutes
Makes: 3 cups, 6 servings
Arborio rice is available in large supermarkets and online. Do not substitute regular white long grain rice, or you will have mushy rice pudding.
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup half-and-half
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg and/or ground cardamom, optional
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 ripe pineapple, diced, about 2 cups
1. Put 1 cup of the milk, the rice, salt and 1/2 cup water into the pressure cooker. Close and lock the lid. Cook 3 minutes on high pressure. Let pressure drop naturally for 10 minutes. Then quick release steam.
2. Uncover the pot; turn on the saute function. Stir in remaining 1/2 cup milk, plus the half-and-half and granulated sugar. Saute, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat; stir in vanilla, cinnamon and optional spices.
3. Melt butter in medium skillet; stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Stir in pineapple; cook until glazed, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Serve rice pudding warm topped with the pineapple.
Note: I like cold rice pudding. Refrigerate it a few hours. Serve in small bowls with a generous drizzle of cold milk or half-and-half.
Nutrition information per serving: 282 calories, 6 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 52 g carbohydrates, 25 g sugar, 5 g protein, 71 mg sodium, 2 g fiber
Stovetop method: Put 1 cup skim milk, the rice, salt and 1 1/2 cups water into a medium saucepan. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to very low. Cook, tightly covered, on low, stirring often, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and stir in 1/2 cup skim milk, half-and-half and sugar. Cook and stir until sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla, cinnamon and optional spices.