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Slow braises — quickly — for weeknight meal prep

Meat with dried and fresh chiles in a pressure cooker
A pressure cooker makes slow braises a possibility for quick meals, served with salads and other sides, throughout the week.
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times)

Though I have an Instant Pot, I don’t use it for everything. Some foods work well in it, while others come out better with a long-slow braise in the oven. One of the things I use it for almost weekly, though, is cooking really tough pieces of meat. While I have no problem spending four or five hours cooking down shanks, tails and other cartilaginous offal meats for a weekend meal, getting it all done in under an hour lets me continue to cook challenging — but wallet-friendly — meats during the week.

I love to pressure-cook a big piece of meat and then use it throughout the week, warmed up in tacos, served over rice, or as the base for a sandwich.

Hatch chiles, in season now and available in grocery stores all over the city, imbue pork shoulder with their fiery earthiness, making them wonderful for serving in flour tortillas with a tart mango slaw later in the week.

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Pig’s feet transform into sticky, supple pieces of meat, ideal for spiking with soy sauce or chile oil and serving over warm bowls of rice or on crusty bread with cabbage slaw for a weekday lunch.

And lamb shanks, cooked until pillow-soft in a tart tamarind broth, are wonderful served with roast potatoes and a salad for the simplest weeknight meal that tastes like an all-weekend project.

Cook up one of these recipes this weekend and experiment with your own ways to dress up these slow-quick dinner staples.

Instant Pot Hatch Chile Pork Tacos

Fresh or roasted Hatch chiles balance the richness of the pork while dried ones give the sauce an earthy depth. Since the arrival of the chiles coincides with hot days, this recipe uses an Instant Pot to quickly cook the meat to juicy tenderness without heating up the kitchen.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

Instant Pot Hatch Chile Pork Tacos with Kohlrabi Mango Slaw
(Mariah Tauger/Los Angeles Times; Food styling by Genevieve Ko)

Quick-Braised Pig Trotters with Star Anise and Lemon

The broth for this dish is teeming with tart lemon peel and aromatic star anise, both of which perfume the pig trotters to their core. Using an electric pressure cooker makes cooking tough cuts of meat, like pig trotters, a quick operation. Plus, while everything cooks in the machine, you have plenty of time to make a simple pot of rice to serve alongside.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour.

Braised Pig Trotters with Lemon and Star Anise
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

Sticky-Sour Tamarind Lamb Shanks

The distinctive light-gaminess of lamb finds a perfect partner in the acidity of tamarind paste — purchase it from your local Indian, Mexican, African or Asian grocery stores or online — although the sauce would taste as good on pork or beef shanks, or short ribs. Inspired by the flavors of Indian tamarind chutney, I use brown sugar and raisins to add sweetness to the fruit sauce while all the spices and chile deepen the umami of the low-and-slow braised meat.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 2 hours.

A plate of Sticky-Sour Tamarind Lamb Shank
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times; Prop styling by Rebecca Buenik)

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