It is technically spring now and I am definitely ready for spring vegetables and grilled meat. However, today happened to be cold, wet, and un-spring-like, which is actually par for the course in Chicago. So, even though spring food has been on my mind lately, today felt like it required a comforting stew or meltingly tender piece of braised meat. But being a weeknight, there's not really time for the slow cooking of a proper braise. That's where the magic of the pressure cooker comes in.
At the store, I had a few choices of meat that would work well in a braise - short ribs, chuck, brisket, and shank. In my opinion, pressure-cooked meat tends to have a little less flavor than traditionally braised meat. Therefore, I wanted to choose meat that could bring a lot of flavor. I chose the shank because it also contributes a marrow-filled bone to party. I kept the flavors uncomplicated and ingredients that I'd have on hand.
If you've never used a pressure cooker, I'd recommend it. If you want more information on how it all works, check out Hip Pressure Cooking, a blog that focuses on pressure cooker recipes. The pressure cooker allows you to cook something that takes hours in minutes. I'd usually cook beef shanks for at least 3 hours, low and slow. Tonight, I cooked it in 45 minutes and it was falling-apart tender. There are lots of recipes to give you times for certain dishes. I just winged it tonight but I knew from past experience, that 45 minutes (including depressurizing time) would be about right. If it was under done, I could always cook it for a few more minutes. But it came out just right. I did end up with more liquid than I would've liked so I removed the meat and carrots and set them aside so I could reduce the liquid. If you don't have the time, then don't even worry about it.
One note about this recipe - if you have a smaller pressure cooker, you'll need to cut this recipe in half, probably. But this recipe makes a lot so that's no problem at all.
PRESSURE COOKER BRAISED BEEF SHANKS
Ingredients: 5 lbs of beef shanks, 4 slices of chopped bacon, 1 large sliced onion, 4 cloves of chopped garlic, 5 large carrots cut into 1-inch chunks, 1 - 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted), 1 cup of red wine, 2 cups chicken stock, 4 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed red pepper, salt, pepper, olive oil
- Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to the bottom of your heated pressure cooker.
- Season the shanks with salt and pepper and add them to the pressure cooker to brown on both sides. Don't crowd the pan so do this in batches.
- Once your shanks are browned, set them aside and add the chopped bacon to the pan.
- When the bacon has browned, add the sliced onions and garlic, along with a pinch of salt and crushed red pepper.
- Saute the onions and garlic for a few minutes until they soften. Be sure to scrape up the fond off the bottom of the pan.
- Add the wine and cook for a few minutes, continuing to scrape up the fond.
- Add the bay leaves, thyme and chicken stock and bring to boil.
- Taste the broth and season with salt & pepper to taste.
- Add the reserved beef shanks and carrots and clamp on the lid.
- Pressure cook for about 30 minutes.
- Then let pressure cooker site off heat for another 15 minutes as the pressure dissipates. You may still need to use the pressure release valve to release the rest of the pressure.
- Carefully remove the meat and carrots and set aside.
- Put the remaining ingredients back on the flame with the lid off for 10 minutes or so to reduce the liquid. Adjust the seasoning if necessary but it should be ok. Just be careful not to reduce so much that the liquid is too salty.
- If you want, you can also strain the liquid and serve it with the meat and carrots.