Friday, 5 June 2015

The Ultimate Meat in Sauce Method

Most recipes tell you to cut the meat into cubes, fry 'em and then add veg 'n stuff to the pan, and subsequently cook the entire thing for a longish while, often in a slowcooker.

This sort of works, but does the meat no favours and does not really improve the sauce either.

What people like about the slow method is that it breaks down the connective tissues in cheap cuts, but, there is a much better way of achieving the same effect, whilst keeping your other ingredients in prime condition.

Use a pressure cooker, and do the following with any meat-in-sauce recipe of your choice:
  1. Fry your uncut lump of meat on a medium heat setting until brown on all sides.  
  2. Lift out and place into the steam basket.
  3. Add your stock or water to the pan to just below the basket level, put the trivet in and the meat basket back.
  4. Pressure cook the lump in the steam for 25-45 minutes, depending on size and type.
  5. Set cooked lump aside (and cover so it does not dry out), reserve the stock, wipe the pan dry.
  6. Make your sauce as per recipe, without the meat, but use the reserved (and perhaps reduced) stock.
  7. Pressure cook the sauce for 7-10 minutes on the middle or lower pressure setting, use the quick release of steam.
  8. Take a blender stick to the sauce and veg in the pan (optional)
  9. Cut the meat into bite size pieces and add to the sauce.
Freeze in portions once it's all cooled down; or season and re-heat to eat now.

Why is this better?  Because your meat just cooks so much better as a lump (as in, stays juicier and has a much nicer texture and flavour), and the pressure[1] will take care of any connective tissue much better than a slow cooker.  And your veg and spices are not going to be boiled to death but only the amount of time necessary.  Plus, you get to purée the sauce, so it has a nice consistency. (if you use whole spice to cook, use a spice bag to remove them!)

Also, this method of course works for curries (where you sometimes may not want to use the pressure cooker on the actual sauce, but just for the meat) or Au Vin style sauces.

[1] If you're buying a pressure cooker, be very sure that it does deliver 15psi (or, 1 bar) as the top pressure. Otherwise, you need longer cooking times, which in turn affect the taste of the food.  Lots of pressure cookers don't offer that performance that and price is no indicator of quality here.  Beem (a German company) is a very good brand and I have their 8 litre model which I am very happy with. But Tefal, Tower and Kuhn Rikon all max out at 13 PSI, so always check the manual.  If it does not mention the actual numbers, chances are that the pot will not make the grade.  Moreover, if you use your pressure cooker to can food in WECK jars, 15 PSI is mandatory to produce the high temperatures needed to be safe from botulism.