Saturday, March 18, 2017

Oven-Baked Cassoulet with Instant Pot Assist

A wine bar near me used to have Cassoulet Nights. Since I got my Instant Pot, I'd been thinking I could make a cassoulet in it...but once I found and bought some of the traditional ingredients, I did more research and realized I couldn't. Yes, you could toss all the stuff in there and set it for 40 minutes and have something really delicious, but it wouldn't have the same flavor dimensions of the real deal. However, as there are many steps in the process, the IP helped me with two of them.

Cassoulet is made with different meats in different cities, as it was once an inexpensive dish that used whatever was readily available to people in that area. Once upon a time, duck confit was a necessity for French people trying to make it through a pre-refrigeration winter. Today, it costs a fortune, so although I love it, I opted for the Toulouse garlic sausages (slightly less expensive) and pork shoulder (a lot less expensive). They're hard to find, though, so feel free to use another kind of sausage you like, even chorizo if you like some heat.

It can be put together in a day, but dinner might be pretty late so it's best to break it up over two or three days. The three main steps are: cooking the beans, cooking the pork, and baking the cassoulet.

1) Day 1: cook the beans and season the meat (sorry, canned beans won't work here): 

Sprinkle salt and pepper over 1 to 1 1/2 pounds pork shoulder. (Buy 2 pounds total of meat, either 1 pound each pork shoulder and sausage, or 1.5 pounds pork and 1/2 pound sausage). Wrap back up and put in the fridge.

For the beans, you'll need 1 lb flageolet or navy beans, 3/4 tsp salt, a few sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf, a small shallot, and 1 or 2 garlic cloves. You can wrap up the seasonings in a little cheesecloth, or just plan to fish them out one by one.

If you use the Instant Pot, cover the beans with another inch or so of water. Set the pot on high for 21 minutes for flageolet beans or 20 for navy beans, which are a little smaller but a lot cheaper. Let the pressure release naturally for another 15-20 minutes, then release any remaining pressure with the valve and put the beans and their liquid in something to store them in the fridge overnight.

You can also soak the beans overnight and simmer them for about 45 minutes, or cook them from dried for about 2 hours. 

2) Day 2 (or do Day 1 and keep in fridge): Brown and/or cook the meats

For this step you'll need, in addition to the pork and sausage mentioned above, 4 oz diced pancetta, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 yellow onion or 3 shallots, 1 small celery stalk, 2 small or 1 medium carrots, and 2 Roma tomatoes

Cut the pork shoulder into roughly three inch pieces. Chop the vegetables, not too finely if you're using the Instant Pot. Put the pancetta and oil into the Instant Pot and then push the saute button. Starting from a cold pan allows the fat to render out better. Stir when the bottom bits are nice and brown. Remove the browned pieces and place in a small bowl, then add all but 1 Tbsp(ish) of the fat from the pan to the bowl. The fat will really flavor everything...and I'm using way less than most recipes. A lot of them call for duck fat and/or salt pork. It's just starting to render out here...
...and beautifully brown here. 
Add the sausages in to brown those on two sides. You don't need to cook them through because they'll finish up in the final, lengthy, baking. 
Remove and set aside. Put the shallots, carrots, and celery in the pot and stir with a wooden spoon to move around and scrape up the brown stuff from the bottom. When the vegetables start to soften, add in 1 cup chicken broth (or water, or white wine). Stir a little more, then add the tomatoes and pork. If there's a bone, add that, too. Close the lid and set IP for 25 minutes high pressure. Once it finishes the time, allow another 15-20 minutes for the pressure to release naturally. If you release the pressure right away, the meat will be tough. 

You can let the meat cool, refrigerate it and assemble the next day, or you can get to step three now.

3) Day 2 or 3: Assemble and bake...aka le douleur exquise...the waiting can be HARD!

Pre-heat the oven to 300. Layer half of the beans in a heavy, oven-proof pot. Sprinkle half of the pancetta over them. Remove half the chunks of pork and add to the pot, then some of the vegetables from the pork cooking, then another layer of beans and pork. Layer in the sausages somewhere along the way and pour any remaining pancetta fat and vegetables/liquid from cooking the pork over the top. Add some chicken broth and some water or bean cooking liquid to just cover the beans.
Put in the oven, uncovered, for what will be a total of 4-5 hours. Yup, you'll have to smell it cooking for THAT LONG. You can blame Kenji from Serious Eats, as I took the timing from him. After two hours, there should be a little bit of a crust forming. Tap it and make a hole in it. Add a little more liquid through the hole so you don't re-hydrate the caramelized bits on the top. After that, check again every 30 minutes for 2-3 more hours, adding more liquid if the beans are dry in the middle. The crust will provide some texture so that you don't need bread crumbs, and may even get very dark, which is OK, but I don't think the size of my pan will let that happen.  Serve hot with a little fresh parsley and grated lemon zest...and don't forget the medium red wine!

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Mexican Shredded Beef in the Instant Pot

This week, good quality chuck roast was on sale at my two local markets AND cilantro arrived in my CSA box. It was meant to be that I prepare this old family favorite dish and adapt it for the Instant Pot. Since I can't add heat due to my allergies, I added some more flavor to the basic recipe with beer and tomato paste. I recommend using those even if you do add chile!
Winters used to bring dinners of fried tacos and tostadas in my house, courtesy of recipes learned by my dad's family from their Mexican-American neighbors and others in Phoenix. These days I'm not eating many tortillas, but this is perfect with sides of beans (Vaqueros from Rancho Gordo tonight) and pico de gallo, or over a salad. I was too hungry and sleepy to snap a lot of pics, so please comment or message me on FB with questions.

  • 3 lbs beef chuck roast
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tsps (ish) avocado or high-oleic safflower oil
  • 1 cup Mexican beer or Pilsner (I used Bohemia, but you can use water if you don't do booze)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 large white onion (white is preferred for Mexican food, but if it's yellow, who's to know)
  • 2-3 medium cloves garlic (or one really big one)
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano, or Mediterranean if you can't find Mexican
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • optional for heat: a couple of teaspoons of your favorite chili powder, a few splashes of hot sauce, or a few chiles tepines--these are what my parents used to bring back from AZ to PA every year for this recipe and for hot sauce 
  1. Make sure the inner liner pot is in your Instant Pot--you'd be surprised how many people dump stuff in there without it! 
  2. Press "saute" on your Instant Pot and add the oil. 
  3. While that heats up, season the beef with salt and pepper. You'll probably need to cut it into two pieces because otherwise it'll be too big to fit on the bottom of the pot. 
  4. When the IP says, "HOT", add one piece of the beef to the pot and let brown for about 4 minutes, until it's browned and lifts up from the bottom easily. Turn and repeat on the other side, then remove and repeat with the second piece. 
  5. Remove beef from pot and add beer and tomato paste, stirring with a wooden spoon to deglaze (scrape up all the yummy brown stuff from the bottom of the pan). Let simmer for a couple of minutes to cook off the alcohol. 
  6. Slice the onion and peel the garlic. Arrange them on the bottom of the pot and put the beef back on top. Sprinkle on the oregano, cumin and optional chile. You don't need to add any more liquid since you're cooking it under pressure. The onions and meat will release a lot and there will be plenty of liquid once it's done. 
  7. Press "keep warm/cancel" to turn off the saute function. Lock the lid in place and press "manual" or "meat/stew". Increase the time to 60 minutes. 
  8. When the 60 minutes are up, let the pressure naturally release rather than opening up the valve. It'll need at least 10-15 minutes. I took a nap and mine went for almost an hour, and it was divine. 
  9. Release any remaining pressure and open the pot. Use two forks to "shred" the meat inside the liquid. You might prefer to take out the big chunks and shred them on a cutting board. 
  10. Serve as desired in a delicious meal, making sure to include fresh tomatoes and onions! 
Pico de Gallo: 
  • Chop 1 pound tomatoes and 1/4 to 1/2 c red onion
  • Add 1 finely chopped jalapeno and/or 1/4 to 1/2 cup cilantro leaves if desired
  • Sprinkle with 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt and juice of 1/2 lemon or lime (no bottled stuff, promise me!)
  • Let sit for a few minutes and enjoy!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Parsley Parmesan Vinaigrette over Roasted Romanesco

I eat a lot of salads, but I don't often make "dressings", per se. I tend to just do them the Italian/Argentinian way, drizzling a little vinegar or lemon juice and oil over my greens, then sprinkling a little salt on. However, every now and again I get a dressing somewhere that I have to attempt to replicate. This is a reasonable facsimile of the vinaigrette that's served with the Quinoa Salad at Fleur de Sel in SF, my favorite prepared lunch spot. Makes about 1 cup. 
It'd be great over quinoa, greens, or white beans, but I got a couple of Romanescos in my CSA box last week and decided to use it with that. The dressing is quite simple, but you should always taste to see if it's what you personally like. Start with my recommended amounts, let it rest for a few minutes after blending, and then adjust a few of the ingredients and whiz again if it's not quite the right balance for you.

Add to a food processor or blender with the blade in (you can hand-chop and whisk if you prefer):

1 cup packed parsley leaves and tender parts of the stems
2/3 cup grated Parmesan (about 2 oz)
2 tsp prepared mustard
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp granulated garlic (or one small clove of garlic, finely smashed and minced)
(optional, phase 2 for AH) 1 tsp honey
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup white wine vinegar, lemon juice, or a combination

There's enough salt in the cheese that you don't need to add more. Blend on high for about 30 seconds, stop, scrape down sides, and blend again. Let sit for about a minute, then taste test by dipping in part of a lettuce leaf rather than a finger or spoon. Add a little more of whatever you think it needs more of: vinegar for more tang? black pepper for more heat? honey to tone it down? It might be just right. Serve or store in a glass jar or plastic deli cup for about a week.
If you want to roast a Romanesco for it, find one of these beautiful things at the market. It's the love child of a broccoli and a cauliflower, so sometimes it's called "Broccoli Romanesco" and sometimes "Romanesco Cauliflower". To serve 4, you'll need:

1 Romanesco
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
juice of 1/2-1 lemon
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
Cut off the bottom so it sits nicely and pre-heat the oven to 375. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and lemon juice.
Put in the oven for 30-45 minutes, turning down the heat after the first 20 minutes if it's starting to brown too quickly. It'll be done when it's kind of browning and wilting on the outside and a fork goes in easily. Cut in quarters to serve.