Beef Stew and Chicken Soup in 35 Minutes or Less

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Most of us
are familiar with slow
cookers
and rely on them from time to time when we want a home
cooked meal that requires very little effort. There are many reasons
to love a slow cooker. Speed is not one of them.

A pressure
cooker, on the other hand, can do just about everything a slow cooker
can in a fraction of the time. The basic idea is the same: throw
meat and vegetables in a pot, add seasonings and enough liquid to
cover the ingredients, put on the lid and walk away. But instead
of walking away for 4–8 hours, like you would with a slow cooker,
a pressure cooker gives you just enough time to change out of your
work clothes and sort through the junk mail before dinner is done.
In about 30 minutes a whole chicken or several pounds of tough stew
meat are transformed into a meal that will melt in your mouth, rich
with flavor and perfectly cooked. In an hour, an entire pot roast
will fall apart with tenderness.

A pressure
cooker is locked shut and seals in all the water vapor that rise
up from the simmering liquid and ingredients in the pot. The increased
pressure increases the cooking temperature and triples the amount
of heat transferred into the meat while it cooks. This tenderizes
meat at a remarkably fast rate. Using a pressure cooker is also
an efficient way to cook stock, as the high temperature will coax
flavor and collagen out of bones in record time. Just add your bones
and animal parts, throw in a few cups of chopped carrots, celery
and onion, plus enough water to cover everything, and cook for 35
minutes or so.

Are there any
downsides to using a pressure cooker? Well, when it really gets
going a pressure cooker sounds a little bit like a steam locomotive
moving through your kitchen. Though if used correctly, there is
no reason to fear that the pot will blow its lid and spray scalding
steam across your kitchen, as some people fear. The lid of a pressure
cooker locks tightly into place and can only be opened if you press
a button to release the latch.

When removed
from heat, the cooker slowly lowers the pressure inside on its own
(or can be run under cold water to speed up the process) and will
indicate when it is safe to remove the lid. Newer models of pressure
cookers have all sorts of added features for safety and ease of
use and are pretty much fool-proof.

If you’re
one of those people who’s had a pressure cooker in your cupboard
for years but have always been afraid of using it, now’s the
time. Thirty-five minutes later, when you’re sitting down to
a warm bowl of tender meat and vegetables, you’ll wonder why
you waited so long.

Pressure
Cooker Beef Stew

Servings: 3-4

Ingredients:

* 2 pounds
beef stew meat
* Several tablespoons of oil
* 1 onion, sliced
* 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
* 4 garlic cloves
* 3 cups beef broth
* 1 cup water
* 1 tablespoon tomato paste
* 2 bay leaves
* 6 sprigs of thyme

Instructions:

Season meat
lightly with salt and pepper. With the lid off, heat oil in the
pressure cooker over medium high heat. Brown the meat, 3–5
minutes. (The meat will brown better if you brown half of it, then
remove it from the pot and brown the other half.)

When all the
beef is browned, add the onion, carrots and garlic (and any other
vegetables). Saute a few minutes more then add broth, tomato paste,
bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

Put the lid
on the pressure cooker, making sure it clicks into place, and turn
the heat to high. As soon as the pressure cooker begins to loudly
release steam, set the timer and cook the stew for 25 minutes. When
the steam valve comes down, remove the lid. Add salt and pepper
to taste.

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