Instant Pot Red-Cooked Short Ribs
With cooler weather comes the season of slow cooking—long-simmered stews and braises that sing with richness and depth. That’s certainly great for the weekends, but sometimes you want that same comfort on a weeknight, when time is tight but cravings are just as strong. Well, thank goodness for the Instant Pot, which allows you to braise meat to fork-tender butteriness in far less time than the oven or stovetop.Here, beef short ribs cook to fall-apart perfection in barely an hour, thanks to this handy appliance. A regular stovetop pressure cooker works, too (I have one of each), and the time under pressure will be the same. Instead of a more traditional flavor profile of, say, wine, stock, tomato, and herbs, I decided to try red cooking—a classic Chinese method that uses wine, soy sauce, and aromatic spices in the braising liquid—instead. I was delighted with the results.Key to the flavor here are star anise pods and a cinnamon stick, which imbue sweet notes to the cooking liquid and the meat (ground spices just won’t do). Also key is a good splash of wine for richness. Ideally, you’d use real Shaoxing wine, but it can be hard to find. (You can look for it at Asian markets, but avoid Shaoxing cooking wine, which is typically salted, and pretty much just as wretched as any other wine labeled “cooking wine.”) If you can’t lay hands on a bottle of (unsalted!) Shaoxing wine, dry sherry is a great substitute.The cooking liquid is so delicious that I didn’t want any to go to waste. I skimmed off the fat (trust me, it would be too greasy on the palate if you didn’t do this) and reduced it slightly, then steamed some bok choy over it to make a more complete meal. Plated with a little rice, the ribs and bok choy—along with that luscious cooking liquid—made for a meal the kids immediately asked me to put in regular rotation. And since it takes less time thanks to the Instant Pot, that’s a request I can easily (and happily!) accommodate.