My husband bought me an Instant Pot on Amazon Day three years ago, after I had dropped hints that I may need to get an electric pressure cooker at some point. The type of food I prefer to cook and eat at home consists largely of stews, after all. There is for me something so satisfying about putting a whole bunch of things into a single pot, letting it simmer for the better part of an afternoon, and then returning to the stove to find something magical.
The only problem with this method of cooking is that it requires a lot of time. If I try to rush a Creole Peruvian stew, for instance, the flavors just won’t develop and dinnertime will be disappointing. These slow-cooked dishes really aren’t made for households in which everyone works outside the home. It seems as if the only way you can consistently put out bowls of fork-tender oxtails or fall-off-the-bone short ribs every day and maintain an active personal life is to be a witch or a wizard with magical powers.
Otherwise, you may find yourself in my situation: You set dates on weekends or holidays for making your favorite stews. You text your partner: “Honey, I’m not leaving the house this Saturday. We’re having goat stew for dinner.” Or you don’t bother making these dishes at home and just enjoy them at restaurants.
Or you get a pressure cooker.
My husband, John, always thinks about my safety and, in particular, my propensity for getting into kitchen accidents (you can read about my mandoline saga here). In his mind, old-school stovetop pressure cookers were just a catastrophe waiting to happen in my clumsy hands. John also has a passion for technology; meanwhile, I’m still learning to live with a food processor (I still hand-grate bread for bread crumbs).
The Instant Pot seemed to offer the solution: It was a pressure cooker, it was safe, and it was the latest in convenience-appliance technology.
While you’ve probably come across countless recipes that detail the innovative things you can do with an Instant Pot, I find that this 21st-century kitchen essential (let’s be truthful here) is your best tool for cooking old-school classics like the ones Abuela made. In my kitchen, this means that I am able to make Peruvian dishes that ordinarily take forever, like beef trotters in peanut sauce or braised tripe in turmeric and mint sauce—on a weeknight, no less. Pre-Instant Pot, I would have had to make plans well in advance for this kind of involved slow cooking.
And that brings me to the best part about having an Instant Pot: I can indulge in more impulse cooking. If my local Latin grocery has a sale on turkey necks, for instance, I can grab them and cook them that very day knowing it will take me less than an hour with a pressure cooker versus four times as long on the stove. And because the best meat for stews is typically the most inexpensive (with a few exceptions), I end up saving on groceries too.
One day, my local Latin grocery had a sale on veal stew meat. The styrofoam package contained gristle, bony chunks of pale pink meat with a lot of fat (stuff that would have ordinarily been thrown out in most mainstream grocery stores). I put the package of veal in my basket and grabbed some carrots, mushrooms, and a bottle of red wine. When I got home, I threw everything into my Instant Pot with some herbs, red wine, and a spoonful of tomato paste, and set it for 45 minutes. By the time John got home, we had a soul-warming pot of veal bourguignon waiting for us, Carlos-style.
I later found that the same approach works beautifully with other tough cuts of meat, including stew beef. This is my own rendition of beef bourguignon, a traditional French stew in red wine sauce. Everything goes into a pressure cooker and takes only 45 minutes to cook (versus several hours the traditional oven or stovetop way). You can use any type of meat you wish in this recipe. Just make sure that it’s not too lean and that it contains a lot of connective tissue and even some bones, if you can. This will give your stew more body due to the release of collagen as well a deeper, richer flavor. —Carlos C. Olaechea
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 55 minutes
- Serves 4
stew beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
large bay leaf, fresh or dried
large garlic cloves, smashed
yellow onions, cut into half-inch slices
medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
button mushrooms, cleaned
Red wine, enough to cover meat (see directions)
- Pat the beef dry and set aside. In a bowl, add the flour, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Add the meat and toss to coat (it's okay if it's a little sticky).
- Turn the Instant Pot onto the medium Sauté setting and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the oil is hot, add a single layer of meat. Wait for it to brown on one side, and then turn over. When browned on both sides, remove and place on a plate. Repeat with the remaining meat until it is all browned. Set browned meat aside.
- Add butter to the Instant Pot. When it is melted and foaming, add bay leaf and fry until fragrant. Add the onions and stir until translucent. Stir in garlic and carrots and fry for about 3 minutes. When garlic is no longer raw, add tomato paste and mix with the vegetables. Fry for 1 minute. You can add a little bit of wine if things start to brown too quickly. Stir in the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add thyme, meat and enough wine to just cover all the solids. Turn the Instant Pot off. Place the cover on the Instant Pot, making sure to turn the knob to the Pressure Cook setting. Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes.
- When finished cooking, release the pressure and uncover pot. Turn on the sauté setting to high and reduce until you reach the desired consistency (and to cook off any alcohol). Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with a baguette, egg noodles, or roasted potatoes.