christmas dinners of years past and a recipe: pressure cooker pot roast

Christmas dinners of my childhood were small, simple affairs. Most of my extended family live in Kentucky and Tennessee, so it was often just my younger brother and me and my parents at home for the holiday. Later, when my mother’s parents moved to Florida, they joined us for Christmas dinner. My grandparents always stayed late for competitive games of Rook around the round oak dining table, its smooth edges warped from too many years in the Florida humidity, and my grandfather with an eternal cup of black coffee beside his hand.

Somewhere through the years, we decided to forgo the roasted turkey or glazed ham, and instead we chose to celebrate that day with a pot roast, mashed potatoes, and gravy – three of my father’s specialties. He was a master at preparing flavorful, juicy roast beef in his ancient Presto pressure cooker. The hissing and spitting sounds made by that pressure cooker and the savory aromas of the beef filled the house on Christmas, teasing us with the promise of the delectable meal that awaited us.

I was never able to replicate my father’s pot roast until I got over my own fear of the pressure cooker. Though I never witnessed any explosions, the noises emitted from that cooker as the pressure increased inside were enough to put an everlasting fear and mistrust of that device into me.

Perhaps some part of me didn’t truly want to replicate the meal. Because my taste memory of that dish is permanently intermingled and entwined with memories of my father, I wanted him to be the only one to cook that pot roast for us. Always and forever.

Of course, another big part of me just wanted to eat that pot roast again and not have to wait for Dad or for Christmas.

So I did it. I made my own version, staying true to the general idea of my father’s pot roast, but infusing my own touches into the recipe. And I managed to avoid the scary, old fashioned stove-top pressure cooker, instead using the more modern electric version for my version of Dad’s pot roast. This one doesn’t make crazy noises that scare the children – or me – and I like the convenience of pressing buttons.

This is a great pot roast, perfectly juicy and tender. It’s not my father’s pot roast, but that’s okay. This one will do until he can make his again for us.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

Cook Time: 65 minutes

Pressure Cooker Roast Beef

This Cuisinart electric pressure cooker is the pressure cooker I use, and I highly recommend it. It’s perfect for those of us who are scared of the stove-top ones that sound as if they’re going to blow up.

Ingredients:

For herb sachet:
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
3 cloves garlic, crushed

For roast:
4 to 5 pound chuck roast
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1-1/2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Prepare the herb sachet: In a square of cheesecloth, combine bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns, and garlic. Bring the corners of the cheesecloth square together and tie with cooking twine. Set aside.

If using an electric pressure cooker: Season the roast with salt and pepper. Select Browning setting and add olive oil. When oil is hot, brown the roast on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side, then remove roast to a plate. Choose the Sauté setting, then add onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until the vegetables are getting soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and wine, stirring until about half the liquid has evaporated. Add beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Crush the herb sachet gently in your hands to release the aromas, then add it to the pot. Nestle the roast on top. Cover and lock lid in place. Select High Pressure and set timer for 99 minutes. When the audible beep sounds, allow the pressure to release naturally. When the float valve has dropped, remove lid carefully.

If using a stove-top pressure cooker: Season the roast with salt and pepper. Place cooker over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, brown the roast on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side, then remove roast to a plate. Still on medium-high heat, add onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until the vegetables are getting soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and wine, stirring until about half the liquid has evaporated. Add beef broth and Worcestershire sauce. Crush the herb sachet gently in your hands to release the aromas, then add it to the pot. Nestle the roast on top. Cover and lock lid in place. Over high heat, bring to high pressure. Reduce heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 55-60 minutes (err towards 60 minutes if your roast is closer to 5 pounds than 4). Turn off heat and allow the the pressure to release naturally. When the float valve has dropped, remove lid carefully.

Remove roast from the pressure cooker, slice against the grain – or pull apart with a fork – and serve.

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12 Responses to “marinated beef kebabs – or, when things don’t go as planned”

  1. 1
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    Mauna — April 14, 2010 @ 9:32 pm

    At least it’s socially acceptable to have children who won’t eat their veggies. I have to trick James into eating them. Mushrooms are still a lost cause, even though they’re one of my favorite things. Let me know if you have any advice for the full-grown man-child.

  2. 2
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    ++MIRA++ — April 14, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

    i dont have kids yet, but i can imagine! i think i would be the mom sneaking veggies into everything. looks good though! with my kabobs i usually like to roast whole tomatoes on the grill, some jalapenos or anything hot, then peel the tomatoes after mush it up, add fresh garlic , and chop in the jalapenos. yum.

  3. 3
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    Leigh (Modern Mommy) — April 15, 2010 @ 7:22 am

    These look amazing! I adore kabobs but never branch out from my usual marinade. I’m totally looking this up now.

    And, if it makes you feel any better, I do the same sort of begging and pleading here. We have a tendency to pull out the bag of raw carrots and replace veggie choices for the kids. Someday they’ll figure out what they’ve been missing. 😉

  4. 4
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    julia — April 15, 2010 @ 8:08 am

    I have a miracle child. Despite all his problems, Benjamin loves mushrooms. He’ll eat them raw. Only problem- we have had multiple talks about how we don’t eat the mushrooms in the yard. (Ayden, on the other hand, will have nothing to do with mushrooms or any food that is not white. White mushrooms are still a no go). Good luck. I like my beef medium rare. Next time, I’ll come over and eat those pieces. PS Yes, my clinic started 5 minutes ago.

  5. 5
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    Dr. Bob — April 15, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

    Great food photography.

    I can eat chicken kebobs nightly as they perfectly complement a good Zin (of which I have plenty). I skewer, in sequence, red bell pepper, chicken piece, onion, tomato and mushroom, mist with olive oil and grill four minutes a side. For seasoning, I rely on what comes with Vigo Yellow Rice cooked 50:50 with Basmati as I find the Vigo too salty. Colorful, tasty, nearly fat-free.

  6. 6
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    Trissa — April 17, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

    I tell you – continue to persevere with the family dinners. That is one thing I am so grateful that my parents ingrained in us at such a young age. Now, I always look forward to them. It brings the family closer together… and I have come to even enjoy them when they are chaotic!

  7. 7
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    Chris — April 18, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

    The family meal is so important and also, so incredibly to schedule these days:)

    I remember running out of gas long time ago. Once we moved to Tennessee, we had a natural gas line plumbed to a natural gas grill which was nice. These days, I rely on hardwood coal.

    They do have gauges now that you can buy that will tell you the level of fuel left. I think they’re about $20 or so.

  8. 8
    merrygourmet
    merrygourmet — April 18, 2010 @ 10:35 pm

    Chris – That solution sounds just too simple for us. We prefer to do things the hard way. 🙂

  9. 9
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    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — April 19, 2010 @ 6:39 am

    That last photo is absolutely lovely – I could dive right in and eat it now!

  10. 10
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    Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — August 29, 2010 @ 11:41 am

    I missed this when you posted it but no matter; my comment is not about the food; it’s about keeping at it with the kids. Kids just seem to be inherently fussy eaters don’t they?

    But I stuck to a game plan when mine were little; they had to taste it. They did not have to finish their plate and I didn’t force them to eat; there was always something they liked that was served…I wasn’t looking for a huge rebellion!

    My youngest was the fussiest but she knew the drill and somehow, magically, I think it made a difference. Though myself and my girls just can not stand green pepper (nature or nurture?) I can think of few food items they would turn away from and in fact, though in their 20’s, are actually considered accomplished cooks by their peer group. They often introduce their friends to foods and seasonings they might not have experienced growing up. So this comment is really meant just for encouragement…keep up the good work!

  11. 11
    merrygourmet
    merrygourmet — August 30, 2010 @ 12:00 am

    Thanks so much, Barb!

  12. 12
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    Marla — July 5, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

    Hi Merry, these beef kebabs look great!
    It is Kebab week at Get Grillin’ we would love if you submitted up to any 3 recipes (they don’t have to be grilled) to our link up. This one would be perfect!
    This week we have a Rosle Grill Utensils giveaway. http://su.pr/1BZGKK

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