Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sloppy Joes in the Pressure Cooker

If it ain't sloppy, it ain't no Joe! Oh, YEA!

Squishy, soft bun is a necessity. The "sloppy" is an indulgent, rich, smoky-burst of tomato-based barbecue flavor.

Add some finely-chopped sweet onion! Even cheese!

Or just go naked. Chips ... Of course! Note the rich mahogany color from adding brown sugar.

The rural, Midwestern, middle-school cafeteria where I taught for 14 years served up Sloppy Joe's I remember to this day! Often, they were served with "government-issue" sticks of yellow cheese. Good cheese, I might add. Or tater tots.

This recipe is based on that cafeteria-memory ... but with a bit more of an adult palate.

An authentic Sloppy Joe has well-balanced, complex flavors: A rich vinegar/tomato base that plays against a saucy, smoky, brown-sugar sweetness. Just a bit of heat. And of, course, it has to be sloppy!

I've tried this recipe with: Ketchup. Barbecue sauce. Chili sauce. Taste test after taste test, I have settled on a forgotten, classic, American staple. Heinze 57 Sauce.

I use the one in the glass bottle.

I like a bit of heat, so I added one tablespoon of A1 Sweet Red Chili with Garlic Sauce. If you don't have that on hand, a few shakes of your favorite hot sauce should do the trick or use what I suggest in the recipe ingredients below.

I have now made this recipe several times. Just today, I had a young associate who works with me at the grocery store try them out. He said he wanted to "lick the container." 'Nough said.

The pressure cooker just does something to amalgamate all these flavors. Without a pressure cooker? Just slow simmer on the stove for an hour or so. Monitor the thickness.

  • 1.25-1.50 lb ground chuck, 80/20 mix
  • 1 cup diced red or yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup diced green pepper
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons dried, minced onion
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 6-8  tablespoons light brown sugar (start with lesser amount)
  • 1 tablespoon A1 Sweet Red Chili with Garlic Sauce
  • OR
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (add a pinch of Cayenne)
  • Heinz 57 Sauce, 3/4 cup (add a bit more if needed)
  • 1, 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar (start with lesser amount)
  • 3/4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

In the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker, saute fresh onion, pepper, celery, in butter and olive oil set on medium saute mode just until onion begins to brown. Add garlic and smoked paprika. Stir and cook a few minutes more. Add meat. Stir and incorporate until pink disappears.

Add wet ingredients. Add mustard powder, dried onion. Salt. Pepper.

Add brown sugar. Allow to simmer a bit. Taste. Re-season if necessary.

Lock lid on Instant Pot. Set vent to lock position. Process 5 minutes. When time is up, use a natural release. When the safety button sinks, remove lid. Simmer on saute, LOW setting, 15-30 minutes uncovered, until desired consistency is achieved. Stir occasionally.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Chicken Stock in the Pressure Cooker

Great soups have one common ingredient: homemade stock. Canned stock literally pales in comparison.

Usually, I put my stock pot on the stove just before I go to bed and let it simmer on low all night. It's a long process, but that slow simmer unlocks the best flavor.

Enter my Instant Pot pressure cooker.

I can now do in 45 minutes what I used to do in a entire night. That's right. Using my pressure cooker, I can now make the most incredible, richest, golden chicken stock in just 45 minutes. 

For chicken stock, I prefer chicken wings. They produce a rich, gelatinous stock. They can be expensive, so I look for packages that are marked down or on sale. Three pounds of wings will give you 5-7 cups of rich-tasting stock to use in your favorite recipes. If you are lucky, your grocer or meat market will carry raw chicken backs/carcasses. If you are really lucky, they will have chicken feet! Sometimes, I add a raw turkey neck for additional flavor. Some people add garlic and fresh herbs to their stock. I prefer not to. I want pure, unadulterated chicken stock. When I make an actual soup, I will add herbs and garlic then.

  • 3 pounds chicken wings, rinsed
  • 2 carrots (8 ounces)
  • 2 stalks celery (8 ounces)
  • 1 medium yellow onion (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • Bottled water (avoid tap water)

Cut vegetables into one-inch chunks. Add to Instant Pot. Add rinsed chicken wings, salt and peppercorns. Fill with water just until the contents are covered by about one-half to one-inch. For my six-quart pressure cooker, that was just up to the 8-cup mark. Do fill over the "maximum fill line" in the pressure cooker. 

Celery leaves add much flavor.

Secure lid. Be sure valve is on "sealing." Set manual timer to 45 minutes. When time is up, quick release valve.

Carefully, slowly pour hot stock through a fine sieve or cheesecloth-lined colander.

Discard all wings and vegetables. The wings have done their job. Their nutrition is now in the stock.

Allow to cool and skim off any fat. There will not be much. Or refrigerate overnight and remove solidified fat from the surface. The fat is great for cooking/frying. In Yiddish, it is called "schmaltz."  

Covered stock can be kept in the refrigerator for several days or up to six months if frozen. It is worth freezing. I freeze in two-cup increments.

Notes: This is an Alton Brown recipe. I made my stock on the back porch. So easy and any spills, etc. were just hosed away.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Marinara Sauce in the Pressure Cooker

Mmmmm.... add a bit of cheese. Put in oven to lovingly melt .... Dip in bread.

I recently bought a ten-dollar jar of RAO Marinara sauce. It was worth it! I'm not a big fan of tomato-based sauces. For my palate, most are very acidic and "tinny." RAO was mild with lots of other flavors going on. It was great. But, at ten bucks a pop ...  that's a lot of tomatoe$.

Making a tomato-sauce can be messy. It usually simmers and bubbles for hours .... and all over your stove! So I got out my Instant Pot pressure cooker to see what I could conjure up. The result was delicious. The flavor ... wonderfully robust, not acidic, with a hearty chunky texture. And I could taste all that I had added: basil, Italian spices, onion, garlic.

It was better than RAO's

I used CERTO tomatoes for the whole and crushed. I probably added a bit more than the full cup of onions and maybe a bit more garlic. The brown sugar augments the acidity of the tomatoes and results in a beautiful, deep mahogany-colored sauce. Use a reputable and fresh blend of dried Italian spices. 

I doubt I go back to simmering and stirring a sauce for hours on end that spits up on my stove ....
  • 1, 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, broken up, CERTO brand
  • 1, 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, CERTO brand
  • 1, 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, TUTTAROSSA brand
  • 1/2 cup grated yellow onion including the juice
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion including juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried Italian seasonings (start with one tablespoon)
  • 10 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
  • 2/3 ounce (19 g) fresh basil leaves (2-3 stalks)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided

Add two tablespoons butter to Instant Pot. Place setting on saute, medium heat. When butter has melted add the onions and saute just until they begin to sweat down and begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant. Add all the tomatoes, brown sugar, dried Italian seasonings, basil. Bring to a simmer. Add remaining two tablespoons butter. Taste for seasonings.

Turn off saute mode. Place lid on lock and push vent to seal. Pressure cook on high for 20 minutes. Allow to release naturally. Remove lid and taste for seasonings. Add whatever more you think you need. Replace lid and pressure cook on high for another 10 minutes.

If you prefer a smooth sauce, use an immersion blender to break it up.

This is a great base. Next time I may add a bit of pork, such as some pork ribs, a small pig's foot,  or some Italian sausages. A handful of fresh chopped oregano ...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ham with Green Beans, Potatoes and Tomatoes in the Pressure Cooker

I really enjoyed this recipe. It had super flavor. And color. And texture. Not too much prep. It's the kind of dish you keep going back for "just a wee bit more." This is somewhere between a soup and a stew, but it is definitely comfort food at its best. And, in the pressure cooker, only five to six minutes to cook.

One could use canned tomatoes. But fresh, sweet grape tomatoes are now such an affordable staple in grocery stores year-round, why bother?

Try not to use a powdered bouillon since they are mostly salt and chemicals. I use "Better Than Bouillon" whose first listed ingredient is actually ham! As an option, you may also add 1/2 can cream of mushroom soup.

I used what my grocery store calls "Pee-Wee" potatoes, all about one to one-and-one-half inch in diameter.

Do not omit the smoked paprika. 

  • 1, 1.5-pound ham steak with bone, sliced on the bias into pieces
  • 1, 9-ounce package cherry tomatoes (12-15)
  • 20-ounces fresh string beans, some cut in half, some left whole
  • 1 cup sliced yellow onion
  • 3 cups unpeeled fingerling baby potatoes
  • 1 10.5-can chicken broth
  • 1/2 can cream of mushroom soup (optional)
  • 2 small cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 - 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon ham base
  • 1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • pepper
  • Sour cream (optional)
  • Several sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stem (optional)

Place Instant Pot on saute mode, medium setting. Add a bit of olive oil and butter. When melted, add onions and ham, ham bone, and sweat for several minutes. Add fresh thyme and garlic. Stir just until fragrant.

Add the chicken stock, one teaspoon bouillon, cream of mushroom soup (if using,) some fresh pepper and one teaspoon smoked paprika. Bring to simmer and taste for seasonings. If needed, add remaining teaspoon of the smoked paprika and bouillon. Add the fresh beans, potatoes and tomatoes.

Turn off saute mode. Secure lid. Turn vent to seal position. Pressure cook on high for 5-6 minutes. Allow to vent naturally.

Remove lid. Stir. If desired, pull out ham, potatoes and beans and place separately on a serving platter with the sauce. Or simply plate up. Serve with a bit of sour cream.