Sunday, February 21, 2010

No Pressure

It was the culinary bogeyman of my mother’s kitchen when I was growing up. It would hiss like a demon and often appeared on the verge of exploding. And, there was usually some strange orange substance hidden in its bowels.

Beware the dreaded pressure cooker!

Some years have passed, and one would hope I have shed my fears of kitchen gremlins and foods that are a good source of Vitamin A. For the most part I have, but old habits die hard. Although I’ve been intrigued by the promise of lightning-fast preparation of food, the classic pressure cooker that I picked up at a tag sale sits idle (and depowered) in my basement.

All I need is a good suggestion to take action (the power of suggestion may be my Achilles heel), so when I read a post by Debby at Feast for the Eyes that mentioned her electronic, programmable pressure cooker, it was enough to inspire some online research and a purchase. About a minute-and-a-half transpired and I was the proud owner of a Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker.

In my defense, this was not a typical impulse purchase. I have been considering the idea of pressure cooking for years, and I even read the Consumer Reports product evaluations online before purchasing. So it was a well-informed, lightning-fast purchase. And, it was on sale.

So what might you expect if “Kid Flash” joins your culinary team?

Imagine fresh lentil soup in about 15 minutes, where the lentils are tender but firm and you can taste the flavor of the carrots:

Homemade chicken stock is produced in about 90 minutes on a weeknight:

Various recipes using beans and legumes – like this hearty “Chili Con Chickpea” come together quickly. The beans require no pre-soaking:

White rice comes out sticky and firm like the takeout variety, and brown rice takes only about twenty minutes. Vegetables, like butternut squash (which I now actually like) cook in about 3 minutes. Cannellini beans for a White Chicken Chili can be made the day before, in just under 45 minutes, and stored in the refrigerator until it’s time to prepare the dish.

The best news is that the device is programmable, so everything cooks according to the exact time needed. The lid locks into place during the cooking sequence, so the possibility of a Mount Vesuvius -style eruption is unlikely.

It’s kind of become my go-to kitchen pot, which is weird, since I just had a new gas stove installed (a behemoth - more on that later).

And, with the time I’ve saved in cooking, I’m already feeling a lot less pressure. Although on occasion, I still peek under the bed before I go to sleep at night.
©2010 T.W. Barritt all Rights Reserved


My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a fun and informative post about pressure cookers. I don't have one, but have thought about it from time to time.

I have a couple of old cookbooks that belonged to Meakin's grandmother such as The Joy of Cooking, that were published in the '30s. You would not believe how much attention is given to them, how to use them (lid disasters as you described) and so on. Then Joy dropped a lot about pressure cookers in the sixties. It's nice to see them back.

My gourmet brother-in-law got one for Christmas a couple of years ago because Jacques Pepin said everyone should have it in their kitchen. And who would question Jacques?

Now you've got me considering a purchase, although I still don't know where I could keep it. It's awful not to have a basement.

Your lentil soup is gorgeous and just jumps off of the screen.

Julia said...

I like the idea of a pressure cooking -- speeding up the cooking process without using the dreaded microwave. I don't have one, I feel so old-fashioned that way.

The Chef In My Head said...

My entire childhood I was told "Stay away, it will scar you for life!" Then when I was older and on my own, my mother bnought one for me. Should I be worried? Funny, until I read your blog, I didn't realize that I am all grown up and I don't need to be afraid anymore :) I promise to get it out of the back of the bottom cabinet and carefully try using it. I won't be afaid...I won't be afraid...I won't be afaid. ~LeslieMichele

Fresh Local and Best said...

This sounds like a genius device! I'm going to wait until I have additional storage space to have get my own pressure cooker.

~~louise~~ said...

I have been hemming and hawing about getting a pressure cooker since the big move. I too have experienced the dreaded volcanic reactions from the "olden" days way back in the 70s. I actually have a pressure cooker, in tact, from the 40s which hasn't been unpacked yet. I do believe my fear of the garage lies in that thing!!! However, the thought of all the luscious goodies that can be preserved this year (CSA) makes me think, perhaps, this is the year!!!

I'm well aware of your gadget "addiction" T.W. but this time, I think you hit the nail on the head. There's just too many reasons to buy and since you've begun my research, I may put it on my list in 2nd place. (1st place is a new food processor; my neighbor wants more cookies:) Thank you for this inspiring, informative post., T.W.

megan said...

Hi, Tom. Now you have inspired me again. First the purchase of my Le Creuset cast iron porcelain enamelled pot, and now I will have to invest in a pressure cooker!! Maybe I will inspire you- I have just found a great recipe for pulled pork- we will talk later, as I am dying to hear about the new range!! Love, Cousin Meg
P.S. Missed you on Valentine's Day this year!! xoxo

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Woot! You did it, and I'm so proud of you. The lentil soup looks fabulous. Would you believe I've never made chicken stock in my PC? How silly of me! I'll have to get tips on how long you cooked it for! Enjoy all that spare time.... doing??

John Barritt said...

Your shining new machine is like the Starship Enterprise to those old Sputniks.


Mary said...

Both of my daughters regularly use pressure cookers to ease their time burdens. I've never owned one for lack of storage space. You've tempted me. Your photos are beautiful, T.J.

Velva said...

I am suddenly feeling inspired. Although, I have always loved the idea of owning a pressure cooker-the "pressure" of the pot has always intimidated me. The food, I know is amazing becasue I grew up eating many stews made by a pressure cooker that were fabulous. I am going to re-think my fear of the pressure cooker. Thanks.

Andrea said...

I have that same pressure cooker, found it at Costco. I avoided pressure cookers for years because the huge one my mother had when I was growing up always made me a little nervous, but this electric one is a cinch to use.

Bon Weekend said...

I couldn't agree more about the anxiety associated with the pressure cooker. First of all, who needs more pressure? But when a friend cooked potatoes in her pressure cooker one night for dinner the scales fell from my eyes. So fast! So efficient! But don't neglect that fab new gas stove.

Lori Lynn said...

I've been reading a lot about crock pots lately, might have to try it too! Your finished dishes sound great.