Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Beef Stew Under Pressure
by MaceVindaloo, Susu

Corran Horn and Mirax were expecting their first child, and as this was the first among the Rogue Squadron pilots and alumnus, they decided to throw a big dinner party to celebrate!

Mirax was past her first trimester nausea, and was looking forward to something hearty and warm to nourish her. Corran knew just the thing — a beef stew, slow-braised and served in an unctuous sauce, one his mother would make on cold days. The party was a surprise baby shower for Mirax, and so Corran managed to get her out of the house with her father Booster to do some baby-stuff shopping.

Now, Corran's general nature was to be punctual, but he also tended to let his attention be riveted by something more interesting than the tasks at hand. The Rogues, past and present, came over to ostensibly help clean and prepare for the surprise part for the mother-to-be, but these men and women hadn't seen each other in a while. First it was one lomin, then another ... some stories ... a lot of laughter ... and suddenly it was an hour before Mirax was due back and not a thing had been done!

Well, nothing to do about the apartment now, so Corran settled for instructing his friends to tidy up a bit so Mirax wouldn't think they'd been having fun without her — gathering up the dirty steins and bottles, washing dishes, some light dusting. Even these simple tidy-up tasks took up all the mental efforts of the merry Rogues! But at least it gave Corran time to devote exclusively to dinner.

He was indeed in a pickle, for instead of the 6 or 8 hours he had planned for braising the tough, flavorful cut of meat, he had but one. That's when he thought about the pressure cooker, which could cook a savory stew in 40 minutes — the result would not be the same, but it was better than admitting he hadn't made the meal he'd promised his pregnant, hormonal wife!

Pressure cooker stews do not evaporate, so the cooking liquid tended to be thin. Should he just resort to thickening the juice with a cornstarch slurry? Absolutely not — in pregnancy, Mirax dared not ingest stimulants or anything but basic foodstuffs, for fear of affecting the baby. She'd been imprisoned in a statis trance for nearly a year, and was very worried how that might affect their child, so she was ultra-careful. But she did miss some of the rich flavors of things like wine ... which gave Corran an idea! While the beef stew cooked under pressure, he concocted a wine sauce Mirax could have. (At the very least, she'd think he spent all day cooking!)

    Beef Stew
  • 4 lbs / 1¾ kg beef shoulder or any other tough, flavorful cut of beef or lamb
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, cut into 8 wedges each
  • half head celery, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, smashed
  • 5 carrots, peeled, chopped
  • stock, as needed
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
Cut the meat into 1" to 2" cubes (2½ to 5 cm). Heat the oil in the bottom of a 6-qt (6 l) pressure cooker and brown the meat in the hot fat till it's dark and crusty. Remove from the oil and add the carrots, onion, and celery and sauté till browned. Lower the heat, add the garlic and continue to cook till softened. Add the meat back to the pot along with the roughly cut carrots, and toss to mix with the vegetables.

Add enough stock to come up no higher than 2/3 of the way up the side of the pot. Any higher and there won't be enough air to make steam, and your stew won't "pressure cook" properly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Make sure the gasket is clean and inserted in the lid properly (follow the manufacturer's instructions). Close and seal the lid and cook over medium heat to build up pressure. When the steam starts to vent (again, follow the manufacturer's instructions), lower the heat to maintain the equivalent of a "slow jiggle." Cook for 40 minutes.

When the time is up, vent the pressure (follow instructions!) before opening the lid. There will be more liquid than you started with. Let the stew sit a few minutes before draining away the cooking liquid (save this for soup or sauce or another stew!!). Toss the meat and veggies with the Red Wine Sauce — it should be less like a gravy and more like a coating.

Serves 8 to 10.

Red Wine Sauce
Corran remembered a glamorous sauce his mother had made when pregnant friends had come as dinner guests to the Horn home. He remembered it had a strong red wine in it and as a child, he never liked it. But he remembered the look of rapture in the guests' faces when tasting this sauce, and he realized it might have been because of the wine. Though the sauce is delicious and strong without the addition of wine, Corran wanted Mirax to be able to enjoy some wine without putting their baby at jeopardy. So he took a few minutes to meditate while he was throwing together the stew, and when he was done, he saw in his mind that his mother had reduced a red wine down to a quarter of its volume, thereby boiling off most, if not all, of the alcohol. Corran mixed this with the Sauce Espagnole, then drained the pressure-cooked beef cubes and tossed the sauce with the meat. What a nice gift — Mirax gets her hearty stew, and a glass of wine with none of the problems. And the Rogues all thought it wonderful how well Mirax had domesticated the former CorSec officer!

In a saucepan over high heat, boil the red wine to evaporate the liquid. Have some ventilation working, or you might get dizzy from the hot alcohol fumes. When the liquid boils down to about ¼ cup in volume, add the sauce espagnole and heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes for the flavors to meld. Keep warm till you need it.

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