Feeling the pressure (cooker)

Corned beef and cabbage tastes great whether you’re Irish or not.

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This non-Irish cook decided he was going to take on the St. Patty’s day staple, corned beef and cabbage, on the day of the March holiday. Not only had I never made corned beef or cabbage (in any way, shape, or form), I also decided to use the pressure cooker my father gave me for Christmas for the first time. Hence, I double-downed on things I have never done before. If that wasn’t enough, I compared notes with my boss, George Patrick Brennan (if the name sounds Irish, that’s because it is), who had cooked his same-weight corned beef (3 pounds) low and slow the day before (the prefered and sexier way of cooking in my eyes), for nine hours, to be exact. So a first-time corned beef and cabbage “chef,” employing a first-time cooking technique, going head-to-head with an of-Irish-descent seasoned veteran — there was NO PRESSURE (wink).

The recipe, listed below, called for stages of pressure cooking (basically, first the meat, then the vegetables) and the whole affair would take less than 70 minutes (to my surprise). After skimming through the directions for the cooker and all the prep work (seasoning, chopping, etc.), I pulled out all the stops to make the best and authentically Irish St. Patty’s Day meal for my family. Complete with Guinness for basting (and drinking), Irish soda bread (not homemade), and Irish folk music radio (courtesy of Alexa), I, with some trepidation, was all in. The bar was set high by George, who confided his corned beef was the “most tender he’s ever had” — NO PRESSURE.

Once the beef went into the pot, there was no turning back, no peeking or poking at the meat as one might do with the low-and-slow method, there was only the staring at the digital time display on the silver lid-locked cylinder, which seemed lifeless and to take forever (only a faint stream of releasing steam hinted that there was anything cooking at all) and downing a couple Guinness, which took my anxiety down a notch or two.

In the end, 70 minutes later, the pressure was released, literally and figuratively, when I unlocked the cooker pot and was hit by the spice-pack, corned beef–infused cloud of steam that immediately made my mouth “all a-watah.”

The beef was juicy and tender with the hint of Guinness, the cabbage was receptive to the fork, and the kitchen filled with the sound and smells of a “propah St Patty Day supah.” We sat down and toasted to the culinary success, and nary a word was spoken. George would have been proud. My (for-the-day) Irish eyes were smiling — no pressure indeed.

Pressure Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

3 lb. corned beef with spice pack
2 large onions, chopped
3 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pint of Guinness (optional)
approximately 4 cups of water or beef stock
one head of cabbage, quartered
4 large potatoes, chopped
6 carrots, chopped

I employed my pressure cooker for the first time (Instant Pot). I am not one for directions or recipes; I loosely peruse both and then wing it. I encourage you to do the same. For example, use carrots or don’t use carrots; cook them whole or chop them into small pieces.

Spices: Season to your palate or preference, you don’t need to stick to a recipe (that’s for baking). Use it as an outline, and then cook, spice to your own taste.

The recipe for the pressure cooker was as simple and as easy as could be. Two parts: the beef, then the veggies. I put the beef in the pot, along with loosely chopped onions and garlic, emptied the seasoning packet (this came with the corned beef), added a pint of Guinness, and then added beef broth until the beef was almost completely submerged in the beer and broth. I locked the pot, set it for 60 minutes, and waited. When the time was up, I added the cabbage, potatoes, and carrots. I locked and set the pot for 10 additional minutes, and with the luck of the Irish, everything cooked perfectly!