"This is the best thing you've made in months," he says as he scrapes his spoon against the side of the bowl I've just placed down in front of him. He quickly looks up and adds, "no offense" with a rather cute and sheepish smile. I give him a supercilious look and haughtily respond that I will take that as a compliment, that clearly I regularly cook such impressive meals that I make Nigella Lawson look like a rube in comparison to my own domestic goddess status, so this must be just beyond exceptional.
But then I crack up and agree that it is one of the best things I've made in months, and it's surprising because the recipe (which I found randomly on a blog I've never read after searching "instant pot beef ginger garlic", ha!) didn't sound wildly exciting. It sounded good, yes, and like a solidly interesting dinner. But the best dish in months? Perhaps if we'd been subsisting on bowls of plain Cheerios and Annie's mac & cheese, that would be an easier trophy to claim.
(To be clear, I am not opposed to living on Annie's mac & cheese for a bit, especially the parmesan peace pasta which between you and me, I sort of did survive on one summer in New Hampshire in college, but I digress.)
This recipe reminded me, once again, that I do truly love the Instant Pot. To make such meltingly tender beef would have taken hours in the oven, but I prepped it in 15 minutes and cooked it in 45. When finished, I had to barely touch a fork to the beef to have it fall apart into soft shreds. It's also testament to the power of a good recipe: There are a lot of disparate flavors here (citrus, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, beef, apple, and so on) but they come together smoothly in a round chorus, creating a deeply satisfying and savory flavor with just enough sweetness to balance the salt and umami of the meat.
Once you cook the beef in your pressure cooker (you can of course use a slow cooker or even just braise it in the oven), you'll think you've gone wrong somewhere, because it looks like the cubes of beef are swimming in way too much liquid. But once you shred the meat, it'll absorb and sop up the liquid, and you'll have just the right ratio of liquid-to-meat for a thick, stew-like consistency.
I made this on Sunday night, when the air outside was still wickedly cold. It was frigid just walking from the car to the apartment. Sunday nights are chaotic in New York; the line at the grocery store counter was backed up so far that people spilled out onto the sidewalk and waited in the cold to buy their essentials. I like to study people standing in line, seeing the contents of their baskets and whether it matches them. A tall, thin, academic-looking man with gray hair has a tub of Greek yogurt, kale, three apples, and a package of frozen chicken curry. A glamorous woman in a luxurious fur coat taps her diamond-ringed fingers impatiently; she has Milano cookies (the mint kind), some expensive-looking cheeses, a few sleeves of water crackers, and several apricots. Two teenage girls are giggling on their phones together, clutching a basket with a loaf of bread, zucchini, a carton of 2% milk, shredded cheddar cheese, and some chocolate bars.
When I get home, I unpack my groceries and start to cook. I light a fire in the fireplace and turn on the white string lights I can't bear to take down yet. Frank Sinatra is on the radio. It's almost unbearably cozy after the long drive home today, the cold weather, and the darkness outside.
I brown the beef in a large skillet, letting it get really golden as I mince garlic (5 cloves!) and ginger. I toss the browned beef in the pot with the garlic and ginger, adding soy sauce and beef broth and the juice of an orange and a diced Honeycrisp apple and lots of salt and pepper.
Once it's pressurized, I just have to let it do its thing for 45 minutes. I turn to the rest of dinner: For me, I'll have the beef spooned over a bowl of buttery brown rice. He put in his own request: cauliflower and sweet potato. I chop a head of cauliflower and peel and dice a sweet potato, then I pulse both in the food processor until they're in tiny, rice-sized bits.
That goes into the pan I used for the beef (to sop up all those delicious savory juices and browned bits) along with a generous knob of butter. Cooked until soft, it's a very delicious side dish that falls somewhere between mashed potato and rice in texture.
I won't write up exactly how I did it here, but I can at some point if anyone particularly cares to know. Spoiler alert: The trick is always more butter.
So enamored are we both of this beef that I spend a solid portion of dinner debating what else I can do with it: Put it in tacos? Should I add fresh cilantro? Serve it with roasted bok choy? Put it on a pizza with charred scallions and ricotta salata?
Please try it and report back to me with your thoughts!
Instant Pot Shredded Korean Beef
Adapted from Cookies & Cups
3 pounds cubed beef (I used bottom round)
3-5 cloves garlic, minced (use more if you like garlic)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 medium apple, peeled and diced
Juice of 1 medium orange
In a large skillet, heat a few teaspoons of olive oil until it shimmers. Season the beef liberally with salt and pepper, and add the beef to the pan (you'll have to do this in batches). Brown the beef, turning constantly so it gets nicely browned on all sides. Transfer the beef to a large plate (save the juices!).
Add the browned beef and any pan juices to your Instant Pot. Add all the other ingredients, seal the Instant Pot, and turn it on high pressure, setting the timer for 45 minutes. Once the timer goes off after 45 minutes, let the Instant Pot depressurize on its own rather than manually releasing the steam.
Open the top, and use a fork and knife to shred the beef. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes to absorb some of the liquid.
Serve over rice or mashed sweet potato! Some fresh herbs on top are good too.
**If you don't have an Instant Pot, you could make this in a slow cooker or you could braise it low and slow in the oven.