Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pressure Cooker Ropa Vieja with Saffron Rice

Old Clothes

While Anna has been diligently making beans, risottos, and soups in the pressure cooker we purchased last winter, I can't say I ever completely caught the pressure cooking bug. Alton Brown's Chili was quite good, but other than that, I had yet to find a recipe to make in it that seemed very exciting. Part of that is due to my attraction to very...  uhm... "ornate"... recipes with lots of precise steps, whereas a pressure cooker is more oriented towards speed and simplicity. But I think the main issue has been not taking a step back and realizing what a pressure cooker excels at. You don't need a pressure cooker to make asparagus. Sure, you can make it in a pressure cooker, but there is no compelling reason why you should. It takes just as long to cook as any other method at your disposal and you're at the disadvantage of not being able to see it while it's cooking... and thus at a much higher risk of ruining it. So if quick cooking vegetables where perfection is a razor's edge balance between "crunchy" and "mush" aren't its strength, what is? Anything that needs long simmering or braising. Soups, stocks, stews, pot roasts, beans, etc. What's similar about all these type of dishes? They use cheaper ingredients but still manage great flavors through long cooking times. Economical and tasty is a great combo, but of course only stay at home parents or people who work at home have any hope of getting a traditionally cooked pot roast on the table for a 7pm weeknight dinner. Enter the pressure cooker.

This recipe is from Pressure Cooking for Everyone by Rick Rodgers and Arlene Ward, is a fairly simple Cuban style pot roast called "ropa vieja" or "old clothes" in Spanish... due to the strips of veggies that resemble tattered fabric. You'll want to serve this with white rice made with a pinch of saffron in the cooking liquid. Since the chuck steak is two dollars and change per pound, that pinch of saffron might be the most expensive part of the whole dish. I'm not generally an olive/capers kind of guy (I keep trying, but it's just not working out), however I thought they worked really well here. Anyway, here is the ingredient list and directions:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs (3/4" thick) beef chuck steaks, cut into 4 to 6 pieces
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2" strips
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2" rounds
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/2" strips
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
  • 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup chopped pimiento stuffed green olives
  • 2 tablespoons bottled capers, rinsed
  1. In a 5 or 7 quart pressure cooker, heat the oil over medium heat. Next brown the chuck steak on both sides in batches, about 4 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Add onion, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic to the pot and cook until the veggies are softened, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, stock, oregano, and cinnamon and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the cooker (i.e. scrape up the brown bits). Return the beef and any accumulated juices to the pressure cooker.
  4. Lock the lid onto place and bring up to high pressure over high heat. Adjust the heat to maintain pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and quick release the pressure, being sure to shield your face with the lid from escaping steam when you remove it. Transfer meat to a serving platter and cover with foil.
  5. Let the cooking liquid stand for 5 minutes and then skim any fat off the surface. Add the olives and capers and cook, uncovered, over high heat until the mixture has thickened slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the meat and serve with saffron rice.

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