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adventures in pressure cooking II

in a continuing effort to cook more at home, i used my pressure cooker for the second time last night. Basically i took some stewing beef and flavored it with some sesame oil, basil, black pepper, and kosher salt, threw it in the pressure cooker with some cut carrots, cubed potatoes, one chopped onion, and about a cup and a half of water mixed with one of those "beef stew" packets.

THe cooking only took about twenty minutes, but the prep work this time around was a good forty-five minutes to wash and chop all the veggies. It was a long time, but it was exactly what i needed. Typically the joy i get from being an amateur cook comes from working with a wok, hearing the sizzle, tasting (yes, tasting) the aroma of food as it's being cooked, etc. But sometimes even the prep work can be strangely satisfying and meditative.

I suspect i could have stopped cooking it a good 3-5 minutes before i did. Unfamilarity with the "feel" of pressure cooking (if there even is a feel to begin with) rose again in this instance. the flavor was okay, but the texture of the beef had a slightly overcooked consistency. The carrots and potatoes were soft, but not badly so, and i expected that anyway given the time that it would normally take to cook those versus cook the beef.

It was a decent effort, but if i were to do it again, i'd make a couple of changes outside of adjusting the cooking time. First, i'd add some corn starch or flour or something to give it an actual stew like texture versus something more soupy. The original recipe called for this, but i'm a slacker and don't have either of those things handy and was too lazy to go to the store. Secondly, that beef stew packet needs to go. It created a decent flavor, but it was so powerful that it ended up tasting too much like generic beef stew, taking any potential personality of my own flavor efforts out of the equation. I'm not sure what to do about that yet - maybe i can just use some beef stock and red wine, spice that up, and use that as my base.

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(Deleted comment)
Dec. 12th, 2007 08:29 pm (UTC)
because pressure cooking is so new to me and i also don't have a *lot* of experience in beef stew, i decided to minimize my variables just to get a base feel for how it would turn out.

And the whole thing went over jasmine rice. there's no way i would have that without some rice element. :)
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 12th, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC)
it will have to wait until 2008. i'm pretty busy these days with work and poker and a few miscellaneous projects, so my mindset isn't quite in this sort of frame. But we'll talk about it. :)
Dec. 12th, 2007 11:22 pm (UTC)
Reminds me of the time I tried putting tofu in the pressure cooker. It melted into a net. :)
Dec. 12th, 2007 11:21 pm (UTC)
I should revisit pressure cooking sometime. I like stews a *lot* but usually in a pressure cooker they cook so much they fall apart.

I spent nearly half an hour browning beef the last time I made beef stew. It made a huge difference in the taste. I generally use reduced cheap red wine along with any stocks I may have in my freezer as liquid bases.
Dec. 12th, 2007 11:28 pm (UTC)
the pressure cooker recipe said that browning the beef beforehand was a good idea before doing the actual pressure cooking bit. I could mess with that too to see how much that helps with the beef texture.
Dec. 12th, 2007 11:32 pm (UTC)
I don't expect it'll help with texture that much. All the Maillard reaction products will simply get dissolved back into the liquid. This will do amazing things for flavour, though.
Dec. 12th, 2007 11:34 pm (UTC)
right, i mistyped there because i was thinking so much about texture. flavor is what i really meant to say. :)
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 13th, 2007 01:40 am (UTC)
a crock pot is kind of the other end of the spectrum.

a crock pot is used to slow cook things over low temperatures. you put in some beef or beans or whatever else and set it cooking all day. for whatever flavor you put on it, it soaks in more successfully, and it also creates a generally softer texture. it's a great way to cook, but not one i do often nor am i good at it.

a pressure cooker is designed to cook things quickly. Stewed beef typically takes 1 to 1.5 hours in an oven to bake, and the pressure cooker did that job in 15 minutes or a little under. The idea is that by raising the pressure, you raise the boiling point of water so it doesn't evaporate, creating much hotter cooking temperatures with no air or liquid escaping the vessel. it's kind of the same principle that applies to steam engines.
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 13th, 2007 02:38 am (UTC)
it was a little scary for me the first time.

and it feels unnatural.

but it can sure produce some good food.
Dec. 13th, 2007 05:52 am (UTC)
"it can sure produce some good food" --FAST. I love you pressure cooker!
Dec. 13th, 2007 10:54 am (UTC)
(general note)

Also, if you're the kind of person who lives or spends lots of time at high elevations, a pressure cooker is often required if you want to cook something by boiling it.
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