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Walker prepares pot roast dinner in pressure cooker

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Jan 18, 2018

(Jan. 19, 2018) It is understood that a master chef strives for excellence and consistency.

With this theory in mind, knowledge is a state where the teacher becomes the student. Questions, concepts and difficulties are not only justified but necessary for achieving awareness in a field of endless possibilities.

The art of cookery is based on delivery where ingenuity can flourish. As a result, we can assume variation is inevitable and change becomes the norm. With that in mind, let us delve into the benefits of the unassuming pressure cooker as opposed to the popular slow cookers.

Before we begin, allow me to clarify a misunderstanding. People tend to use the terms “Crock Pot” and “slow cookers” interchangeable, but this is incorrect. While all Crock Pots are slow cookers, not all slow cookers are Crock Pots.

According to Humble to High Tech, A Slow Cooker History, Irvin Naxon, a prolific inventor, applied for a patent on May 21, 1936, for a slow cooking device that would not only be portable, but would provide solutions for may of the complaints issued about previous models, namely uneven heating.

Four years later he received the patent for a particular appliance known as a Crock Pot.

I know I am venturing on a touchy subject; people love their slow cookers and Crock Pots. But if one is willing to keep an open mind, the thought of revision could become a reality.

I am by no means suggesting that you should retire your slow cooker. Month after month, the popular appliance continues to be the subject of many websites and books and for good reasons.

Slow cookers offer a level of convenience that no other cooking method can match. Simply add your ingredients, turn the switch to on and “viola,” hours later you have a hot meal ready and waiting. But if one understands the specifics and intricacies of culinary science, you might realize you are forfeiting a lot of flavor just for the sake of convenience.

An article, “Why Anything Slow Cookers Can Do, Others Can Do Better” by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, is quite enlightening and worth review. Lopez-Alt is the author of the James Beard Award nominated column The Food Lab, where he explores the science of home cooking.

Slow cookers, pressure cookers and Dutch ovens are used for moist-heat cooking techniques that consist of braising, simmering and stewing. But there are fundamental differences in the way that they heat, which can affect the outcome of a dish. For the purpose of this article we will compare slow cookers and pressure cookers.

Lopez-Alt wanted to know exactly what these differences are and how they impact flavor. He made batches of beef stew, red sauce, split pea soup and chicken stock, and compared the results.

The purpose was to see if a pressure cooker produced a better tasting dish. Following is a very brief and condensed summation of his findings.

One of the biggest factors that can affect the taste and body development in braises and stews is the temperature at which they are cooked. The temperatures in slow cookers can vary greatly from brand to brand, but in most cases, the range of heat is below a pressure cooker.

More importantly, because you are heating through a thick ceramic insert, that energy comes gently from the bottom.

In addition, the moisture that evaporates from the food being cooked condenses on the lid and drips back down, simultaneously slowing the rate of reduction which intensifies taste. Thus, all foods cooked in slow cookers experience almost no extra browning or reduction, which means that it is difficult to build flavor.

Pressure cookers function on a different principle than slow cookers. Pressure cookers are tightly sealed and the boiling point of liquid is much higher. As the pot heats up, pressure begins to build.  This pressure makes it more difficult for water molecules to turn to vapor.

The steam generated in the cooker makes food cook faster. And because the pot is sealed, it requires less cooking liquid which enhances the flavor. As a bonus, once the pressure is reached, you cook with the heat turned down as low as possible, and the cooking time is very brief as opposed to a slow cooker.

The philosophy of cooking is to be willing to step out of your comfort zone and test the theories of possibilities. You never know, there may be an occasion where you have to make pot roast “on the fly.”

In that case, cooking this favorite dish in a pressure cooker may save the day. Enjoy!

 

Pressure Cooker Pot Roast

Ingredients

1 (4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast, pulled apart at the natural seam and trimmed of any large pieces of fat

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

2 tablespoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil

1 sweet onion, quartered

2 large cloves garlic, quartered

1 celery rib including the leaves, quartered

1 large carrot, peeled, ends removed and quartered

3 cups red wine

2 cups concentrated beef stock

2 cups chicken stock

2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 rounded teaspoons veal demi-glace

3 bay leaves

2 rounded teaspoons dried thyme

2 rounded teaspoons dried herbs de Province

2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary

2 teaspoons tomato paste

 

1. Salt and pepper meat heavily and set aside.

2. Melt butter and olive oil in pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add meat and sear both sides.  Remove from pressure cooker and set aside.

3. Turn heat to medium-low and add onion, garlic, celery and carrots and sauté for seven minutes.

4. Add all of the remaining ingredients. Lock lid in place and bring pot to high pressure over high heat, 3 to 8 minutes depending on the type of pressure cooker you have. As soon as the pot has reached high pressure, reduce temperature to medium-low and cook for 1 hour, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure.

5. When meat is fork tender, remove it and place on a plate in a warm oven.

6. Remove bay leaves.

7. Using a handheld immersion blender, puree the broth and vegetables.

8. Place blended broth in a pan, reduce and thicken with cornstarch slurry.

9. Serve meat and thickened sauce with mashed potatoes and a medley of assorted vegetables.

Secret Ingredient – Consistency. “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

— Oscar Wilde

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