18 September 2006

The pressure cooker: my new best friend

Avoiding all topics theological, I have not raved here about my new pressure cooker and the amazing difference it has made to our eat-at-home lives lately. I cannot praise it highly enough. In fact, I will make this shocking generalization... every family needs a pressure cooker.
Mine is the cheap-o version from Farm and Fleet. It cost $29.99, I believe, and is aluminum. If you are interested in getting a pressure cooker and are fazed by the sticker price on the all-clad and stainless steel varieties, heed not those lovelies who will tell you that the aluminum kind simply won't work. For now, it will. Maybe someday, I'll graduate. On the other hand, maybe I'll pass this one on to my children.
ANYWAY, the beautiful thing about a pressure cooker is that it makes previously time-consuming meals incredibly quickly. Which is wonderful for any busy person, but particularly the kind who forget to turn on crock-pots in the morning. Pretty much anything you can make in a crockpot you can make in a pressure cooker in under an hour. And it will taste wonderful. Trust me.
For example, in the three weeks since I've purchased my pressure cooker, I've made two chuck roasts -- one with potatoes and onions cooked together with the meat (done in an hour -- and all these times take into account bring the cooker to pressure and letting the cooker depressurize), the other by itself for 55 minutes, then removed and covered with foil while the pressure cooker cooked potatoes and cauliflower together for 7 minutes which I then mashed with milk, butter and parmesan; pork loin roast covered with apricot jam, cooked for 35 minutes; Indian red lentils, cooked for 15 minutes and eaten over rice; chicken breasts and rice with cream soup and mushrooms, cooked for 17 minutes; chicken broth, cooked for 30 minutes with onions, carrots, celery, etc. (it tasted like it had stewed for hours!). Check out pressure cooker recipes online to see the variety of what you can make!
All of these meals would have taken hours in the oven which in turn, would have heated up the house and used quite a bit of energy. I love that I can have these comfort foods on the table in so little time and with so little effort -- I put the ingredients in the pressure cooker and let it come to pressure, turn down the heat and turn on the timer. Then I can make salad or a side dish and we can still eat very quickly after the food goes in the cooker.
Tonight I'm making Tuscan Chicken, Bean and Potato soup from frozen chicken thighs because tomorrow it will be cold here -- only 50 for a high-- and we will be getting in from the hospital and testing a little late. So right now the house smells absolutely delicious and tomorrow we won't have to worry about anything other than heating up the pot and adding some rolls and a salad.
If any of you have a pressure cooker and have recipes you'd like to share, I'd LOVE to receive them!!
In the meantime, here's one for you!

Tuscan Chicken, Bean and Potato Soup
4 chicken thighs, stewed and deboned
5 cloves garlic
1 onion
2 potatoes peeled
1 can cannellini beans or great northern beans, drained
1/2 -1 tsp. rosemary (or if you are fortunate enough to have Herbes de Provence on hand, for goodness sake, use that!)
1/2 t. fresh black pepper
1 t. salt
1 T butter
4-5 cups chicken stock

If you haven't cooked the chicken, add it, the garlic, onion, rosemary, salt and pepper to your cooker. Cover with stock. Bring to pressure and cook 10 minutes -- 20, if frozen. Release pressure with quick cool method (running water over the edge of the cooker). Remove thighs, debone, strain stock and add back to cooker, mince onion and garlic. Add back the chicken.
If you're using leftover chicken, saute the garlic and onion in a little olive oil. Add stock and chicken.
Peel and cut the potatoes into 2 inch sections and add to the pot. Add beans. Add butter.
Cover and bring to pressure. Cook 6 minutes. Use quick-cool method and release pressure. Enjoy.
(You can also add a couple handfuls chopped escarole, endive, or kale and return soup to heat until wilted.)
This is great topped with parmesan and accompanied by a salad and rolls!

Oh, and you can also cook this all in a pot, if you'd like. Cook til potatoes are done. It's still delicious, just not quite as fast!!

2 comments:

Laura said...

Yummy!

I love my pressure cooker. I have one of my mom's that she gave me as a housewarming gift 7 years ago. It was part of a set that she recieved as a wedding gift in 1973! I use it at least once a week.

Anonymous said...

April, I feel a little shallow responding to this post when you are in hospital recovering, but I wanted to say a huge thankyou for this post. I will be writing to Santa shortly to put in a request for a pressure cooker! Your recipes sound delicious - I hope you will be back enjoying them again soon.

Annie-UK