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I don’t know why, but soup makes me sit back and reflect.
We throw around “Comfort Food” a lot, for many different dishes. Everyone has their favorites. But there’s just something about a bowl of soup. Soup comforts at a deeper, more fundamental level. It’s the culinary equivalent of being tucked under a blanket on a bitterly cold morning. So, when my friends at Certified Angus Beef asked me to do a comfort food recipe, vegetable beef soup was the first thing I thought of.
Now, I’ll admit up front: this recipe is an odd mix of “do it from scratch” and “convenience”. Who says I have to be consistent? Trust me, I have my reasons.
The key to this recipe is making beef broth from scratch. Yes, beef broth takes a couple of hours, but you can make it ahead of time. (You won’t understand the meaning of “frozen assets” until you have a freezer full of homemade broth.) The pressure cooker is my key to broth – a few hours of (mostly) unattended work, and I have quarts of broth ready for whatever may come.
For beef broth I need cheap, meaty bones. At my local grocery store, I get soup bones, which give me mostly bone with a little meat, and beef shanks, which give me mostly meat with some bone. (Oxtail and so beef short ribs are two other good choices for the “meaty with bone” side – but both are expensive at my local stores.)
I like to brown the broth ingredients in the oven before I start, to add extra depth of flavor. (There’s way too much of them to brown in the pressure cooker in a reasonable amount of time.) I rub some tomato paste on the beef bones, lay them out on a sheet pan with the vegetables, and roast them until they are are browned. After that, everything goes in the pot, gets covered with water, I lock the lid, and the pressure cooker does the rest.
On the opposite end of the “from scratch” spectrum is my hidden shame. I…I…I use frozen mixed vegetables in my soup. (Phew. I admitted it. It’s such a relief.) Homemade broth makes a huge difference in flavor…but I’m not so sure about home-chopped vegetables. Especially since I only want about a pound, total, of mixed vegetables. There’s no convenient way to get the variety of a bag of frozen mixed vegetables – peas and carrots, corn and beans – without having a lot of each left over. Not that there’s anything wrong with fresh vegetables – if you have them, please, use them up in this soup! (See the Notes section for details). But I wouldn’t go out and buy them just for this recipe.
Video: Pressure Cooker Vegetable Beef Soup (8:10)
Video: Pressure Cooker Vegetable Beef Soup [YouTube.com]Print
Pressure cooker vegetable beef soup. The perfect Fall comfort meal, with made from scratch broth using meaty beef bones and a pressure cooker.
- 3 pounds beef bones (or beef soup bones)
- 1 1/2 pounds meaty beef shanks (or oxtail, or short ribs – you want cheap beef, on the bone)
- 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
- 2 medium onions, peeled and halved
- 1 head garlic, top 1/3rd trimmed off
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 2 stalks celery, trimmed
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 10 peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 bay leaves
- Water to cover (8 to 12 cups)
Vegetable Beef Soup
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 8 cups beef broth
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 pound (3 to 4) Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen mixed vegetables
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Make the Beef Broth: Heat the oven to 425°F. In a large roasting pan, rub the tomato paste over the beef bones and beef shanks. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery to the pan. Put the pan in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the beef and aromatics and roast for another 15 to 30 minutes, until the beef and aromatics are browned. Scrape everything from the roasting pan into the pressure cooker pot. Add the thyme and peppercorns to the pot and cover the bones with water – 8 to 12 cups of water, or whatever reaches your pot’s max fill line. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker and pressure cook on high for 75 minutes in an electric PC, 1 hour in a stovetop PC. Let the pressure come down naturally, about 30 more minutes. (The water holds a lot of heat, so it takes a while for the pressure to drop. If you get impatient, you can quick release the heat after 15 minutes.) Scoop the solids out of the pot with a slotted spoon, then pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer. Skim the fat from the top of the broth as best you can. (This is easy if you refrigerate the broth overnight; the fat rises to the top and solidifies, so you can scrape it off in big chunks). Use 2 quarts of the broth in this recipe, and freeze the rest of the broth in 2 cup containers for later use.
- Brown the beef (for the soup): Wipe out the pressure cooker pot, then put it back over medium heat (sauté mode) and heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until it shimmers, about 3 minutes. Brown the beef cubes on one side, working in in two batches so we don’t crowd the pot. Brown the first batch of beef cubes on one side, about 4 minutes, then transfer to a bowl. Add the second batch, brown it on one side (again, about 4 minutes), then move it to the bowl with the rest of the beef.
- Sauté the aromatics: Add the onion and garlic to the pot, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the dried thyme. Sauté until the onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes, occasionally scraping the bottom of the pot with a flat-edged wooden spoon to work loose the browned bits of beef.
- Pressure Cook on high for 15 minutes with a quick pressure release: Add browned beef and any juices in the bowl, the beef broth, the crushed tomatoes, and the potatoes. Stir to mix everything up in the pot. Lock the pressure cooker lid. Pressure cook on high pressure (manual mode) for 15 minutes in an electric PC or 12 minutes in a stovetop PC, and then quick release the pressure. (Or, if you have the time, pressure cook for 12 minutes in an electric PC, 10 minutes in a stovetop PC, and let the pressure come down naturally, about 20 more minutes.)
- Simmer the frozen vegetables: Set the pressure cooker to sauté mode adjusted to high (or turn on medium-high heat) and pour in the frozen mixed vegetables. Let the frozen vegetables heat through, about 5 minutes.
- Season and serve: There is very little salt in this homemade broth, so you will need to season the soup heavily. Add salt until the taste picks up – it goes from flat and boring to sweet and delicious. (I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of fine sea salt to get the broth tasting the way I wanted it to.) Also stir in fresh ground black pepper; I like about 1/2 teaspoon for 8 cups of broth. Serve and enjoy!
- Make Ahead: Beef broth freezes beautifully. Finish the “make the beef broth step”, then store the broth in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, scrape the fat cap off the top of the broth and freeze the broth in 2 cup containers. (I use pint canning jars with storage caps.) When it’s time to make the soup, I thaw the canning jars in the microwave (lids removed!) while I start making the recipe. I add the thawed broth at the “add the broth” step. It’s OK if the broth is still a bit frozen – the pressure cooker will finish thawing it out.
- Fresh vegetables: Don’t feel like using frozen vegetables? Stir in a pound of fresh vegetables when you add the potatoes. Go with one or more of: diced carrots, corn, bell peppers, green beans, or whatever other vegetable you feel like you need in your vegetable soup.
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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