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Pressure Cooker “Braised” Leg of Lamb
By Charlie Burke

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We had planned to cook a boneless leg of lamb for dinner, but somehow it had
become six o’clock by the time we had finished digging thirty pounds of new
potatoes. We did not want to eat three hours later, so I turned to our pressure
cooker. I use ours most often to makes stocks, the higher boiling point extracting
maximum flavor, and I also save time cooking dried beans and soups. Lamb
shanks cook in less than an hour and have the moistness and tenderness
approaching those done slowly for several hours, so I decided to do the lamb leg
in one piece in the pressure cooker.

It took minutes to pull the ingredients together, and dinner was on the table
shortly after seven. All braises use liquid to nearly cover the meat, and the
choice of liquid includes simply water flavored with herbs and vegetables and
mixtures of stock and wine. I rarely use a recipe, instead thinking of a regional
cuisine and adding the flavors of that area. Here, I chose the south of France,
using red wine, water, rosemary and a head of our recently harvested garlic. I
added an envelope of chicken bouillon powder, a trick of Italian and French
cooks.

While I was searing the meat and cutting the vegetables, I had the liquid in the
cooker over high heat to boil off the alcohol in the wine. Since the liquid was hot
when the meat was added, the cooker came up to pressure in minutes, and forty-
five minutes later I took it off the heat. I let the pressure come down on its own,
but if we were really in a rush, I could have run cold water over the pressure
cooker and removed the cover in a minute or less. This piece of meat weighed
slightly less than two pounds; larger pieces should be cooked for an hour. If the
meat is not perfectly tender, simply replace the top and cook an additional ten
minutes after the cooker returns to pressure.

Four Servings:

2-3 pound boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat
2 cups full bodied red wine, such as a Cotes de Rhone or a Syrah (preferably the
wine to be served with the lamb)
1 cup water or chicken stock or sufficient volume to cover 2/3 of the meat
1 envelope of powdered bouillon (we use Goya), optional if using water
1 large or 2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup tomato sauce or drained chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup European style black olives, such as Calamata, pitted and coarsely
chopped
5 3 inch sprigs of fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
8 – 10 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Heat a sauté pan over high heat. Dry the meat with paper towels and season
both sides well with salt and pepper. Fill the bottom of the pan with olive oil
and sear the lamb on both sides until dark brown. While meat is searing, pour
the wine and water or stock into the pressure cooker and bring to a boil over
high heat, cooking until it reduces slightly and the alcohol has boiled off. Add
all of the remaining ingredients and remove the pressure cooker from the heat

Place the browned lamb into the pressure cooker, pour off the fat from the sauté
pan and add ½ cup wine or stock to the pan, scraping the browned fond from the
pan. Pour this liquid into the pressure cooker, and then add additional water or
stock, if needed, to bring the level to 2/3 of the thickness of the meat.

Cover the pressure cooker, lock the lid according to directions, and place it over
high heat. When the cooker comes to high pressure, lower the heat to the lowest
setting which will maintain this pressure. Cook at high pressure for 45 – 60
minutes, according to the size of the meat and the cooking times suggested for
your cooker. (Always follow the instruction manual for your pressure cooker.)

Permit the pressure to release slowly according to directions, and then remove
the cover, lifting the far side of the lid so that the steam escapes away from you.
Remove the meat and cover with foil. Place the uncovered cooker over high heat,
and reduce the liquid by 1/3. Serve the meat covered with the sauce. (I chose not
to strain the sauce for a more rustic presentation, but you may prefer to strain it
and serve it separately at the table.) We served the lamb with our newly dug
fingerling potatoes and the last of our summer squash. Swiss chard and spinach
would also match well with the earthy lamb.  

Modern pressure cookers are safe and easy to use. I prefer slow cooking for
braises, but there are times when busy schedules leave little time for preparing a
meal, and the pressure cooked version is nearly as good as an oven braised dish.
Risotto is another labor intense meal best left for weekends, but we frequently
make a mushroom or seafood risotto in the pressure cooker for a quick dinner.
The risotto requires no stirring, is better than many a restaurant version I’ve had,
and is done in six minutes!  So, check out the newer versions of our
grandmothers’ pressure cookers. With one in your kitchen and one of the new
pressure cooker cookbooks, you will find many versions of standard recipes you
can easily and quickly prepare on busy days.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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