Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pressure Cooker Beef Daube and Mashed Potatoes

Pressure Cooked Beef Daube and Mashed Potatoes
I guess formally this would be Daube de Boeuf Provençale, but I think we can just call it beef daube since we're all friends here. What makes it a "daube" is that it's beef braised in wine... but isn't that what Beef Bourguignon is? Well yes... that's exactly what it is... but Beef Bourguignon is all fancy with it's red Burgundy wine (though most would just use a California or Oregon Pinot Noir since it's the same grape) and pretty little mushrooms. Our more humble boy here is just beef, carrots, and any full bodied red wine you can get your hands on for $10 or less.

Apropos of my desire for a personal pressure cooker revival, both the daube and the mashed potatoes pictured above were prepared in a pressure cooker. When we bought our pressure cooker a couple of years ago, Amazon had the 5 piece Fagor Duo Combo on sale for about $116, which was only a a few bucks more that the 8 quart Fagor Duo by itself... so why not get all those extra pieces, right? Certainly the glass lid is great, since it allows you to use the pressure cookers as regular pots... and the steamer insert is handy... but what about the 4 quart pressure cooker? To be honest I hadn't really used it. While it would obviously come to pressure much quicker than the 8 quart one, I was always worried that I would fill it too high or something. Though I think the real culprit here is the fact that, while you have two pressure cookers, you only have one pressure cooker lid. If there were some way to obtain a second lid independently, it'd be quite useful to have that second pressure cooker even if it was relatively small... but as it is? Not so much.

Well, I decided I would try to get some utility out of the smaller cooker, and thus used it to make mashed potatoes to go with the daube. Turns out it fairly perfectly holds 2 pounds of potatoes in a single layer, which is exactly what I needed. Yeah, I had to finish cooking the daube before I could start the potatoes, but you want your mashed potatoes finished at the last possible moment anyway, so it didn't seem like a huge problem. It only takes 10 minutes at high pressure to get your potatoes mashable, and the fact that you only have water half way up the potatoes means getting it to high pressure is pretty quick. Normally I only ever make mashed potatoes on a holiday dinner or other special occasion since a) my usual recipe has an entire stick of butter and a cup of half and half, and b) bringing a giant pot of water to a boil and then boiling potatoes for 20-30 minutes is a lot of time for a side dish. The pressure cooker makes things a lot quicker, so I'm either going to have to be very very disciplined or find a lower calorie recipe... but for the occasional indulgence the Cook's Illustrated recipe below is my favorite. I mean, how can it not taste awesome with a stick of butter and cup of half and half?

Returning to the daube, the cut of beef should be chuck or round (with chuck being my preference) and you've got a couple of optional additions in anchovies and olives. I'm not an olive person, so I nixed that but did go with the anchovies for umami based reasons. The sauce does need to be thickened with corn starch, but it is quite flavorful for something that's at high pressure for only 16 minutes. I like it quite a bit for something you can get on the table (ignoring the marinade) in 40 minutes or less.

Pressure Cooker Daube de Boeuf Provençale
adapted from Cooking Under Pressure from Lorna Sass

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups drinking-quality red wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 to 5 anchovy fillet, packed in olive oil, drained, and mashed (optional)
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless chuck or round, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/3 cup pitted black olives, preferably oil-cured (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large carrots, peeled (leave whole)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Directions:
  1. Combine the wine, thyme, bay tomato paste, and mashed anchovies (if using) in a nonreactive bowl/storage container. Add the beef, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight (if you are in a hurry you can skip this step).
  2. Heat the oil in the cooker over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until lightly browned (4 minutes). Holding the beef cubes to one side, pour the wine marinade into the cooker and boil it over high heat about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the beef and stir in the olives (if using) plus salt (you are likely to need more if you haven't used the olives and anchovies) and pepper to taste. Set the carrots on top.
  4. Lock the lid in place and over high heat bring to high pressure. Adjust the heat to maintain high pressure and cook for 16 minutes. Let the pressure drop naturally, about 10-15 minutes. Do not use the quick-release method (it will toughen the meat). Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow steam to release.
  5. Test the beef for doneness. If it is not sufficiently tender, lock the lid back into place and return to high pressure for a few more minutes. Again, let the pressure drop naturally.
  6. Slash the carrots into chunks, Stir in the parsley. To thicken the sauce, dissolve the cornstarch in 1 tablespoon of water and stir it in. Boil gently, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning before serving.

Pressure Cooker Mashed Potatoes
adapted from The New Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated

Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 tablespoon coarse/kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1 cup half-and-half, warmed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • Ground black pepper
Directions:

  1. Place scrubbed potatoes into 4 quart or larger pressure cooker and fill with water to halfway up the potatoes. Lock lid in place, set to high pressure, and turn heat to high.
  2. When the cooker reaches pressure turn the heat down to low and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the cooker from the heat and use the quick release to lower the pressure.
  3. Set food mill or ricer over an empty bowl. If you are using a food mill you will need to peel the potatoes, so spear a potato with dinner fork, then peel back skin with paring knife. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Working in batches, cut peeled (or unpeeled if using a ricer) potatoes into rough chunks and drop into hopper of food mill or ricer. Process or rice potatoes into the bowl.
  4. Stir in butter with wooden spoon until incorporated; gently whisk in half-and-half, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.