Photo by @thenonchalantcook
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I have a love/hate relationship with my pressure cooker. I would categorize it as “it’s complicated.” As a self-diagnosed food snob, when Instant Pot’s and other similar devices started taking over my feed I filed the terrifying looking contraptions away as something I would never use. Fast forward a few weeks and said terrifying pot all of a sudden became something I had to learn how to use for work—and quickly—because I had to do so on camera.
Recipe development is something I love and usually comes easily to me (I say usually because I made this dang cake 87 times, but trust me it was worth it), but working with an Instant Pot is a whole different ball game and a world of opposites. Something you are taught to cook low and slow (i.e short ribs) and with lots of braising liquid is all of a sudden ready in 40 minutes using just one cup of liquid. The moral of the story is you have to throw *most* of your hard and fast rules out the window when developing an electric pressure cooker friendly recipe.
But alas, hindsight is 20/20 and 2019 is the year of the truth, so if I’m being honest, this recipe took more than a few tries even though I should know better at this point! The first two passes at it were delicious, but they were not perfect. If someone is going to spend the money on short ribs, they need to be perfect, right? (Side note: when did short ribs start costing 1 million dollars?!)
My first mistake was using far too much braising liquid. It goes against everything I learned in culinary school, but when trying to achieve a result similar to a braise in an Instant Pot, you need to use far less liquid than you would in a traditional braise. The reason? All that liquid has nowhere to escape or evaporate in a sealed pressure cooker so you end up boiling your meat instead of braising it. And guess what? Boiled Beef = No Bueno.
BUT in each test, when I added my liquid to the pot it never looked like enough! How could 1 cup of liquid cook 3-4 pounds of beef? The answer. Magic (and some sort of chemistry I don’t quite understand).
The moral of the story? An electric pressure cooker is a mom’s (or any busy homecook) best friend. You can hard boil eggs, sterilize bottles, make a killer chicken stock and get dinner on the table in record time—but you have to learn how to be flexible. Sure, it may not be the traditional way to cook, but it sure does save some time!
Now on to the nitty gritty of these ribs. They are packed full of flavor thanks to aromatics like lemongrass, ginger, garlic and scallions and spiced with a touch of sambal oelek. If you can’t find lemongrass feel free to substitute with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon zest. If you prefer things less spicy, skip the sambal. When I make this for my son, I actually save the sambal and add it add the end (when I add the cornstarch slurry) so I can control which ribs get doused with the spicy sauce! The best part? A recipe usually reserved for a lazy Sunday can be made on a busy weeknight in about an hour, and most of that time is hands off!
Using Lemongrass for the first time? Head here for a video tutorial on how to properly clean and prep it for use in dishes like this!