If you remember pressure cookers, you remember their disasters. The new ones solve all that -- we hope.
There was a dent in my grandma’s ceiling above her stove, and we all knew why. She was pressure cooking a ham for Easter dinner. The emergency release valve got stuck. We suspect it was her potent brown-sugar and mustard glaze.
Her cooker exploded, the lid hit the ceiling and the ham blew apart in shreds all over the kitchen. Needless to say, it was a memorable Easter. But, hey, nobody died.
This is why my generation deserted pressure cookers like so many land mines waiting for the enemy to find. Despite their many attributes, they terrified us.
There are at least three generations of you who never witnessed a pressure cooker blow. You’re now buying the cookers like crazy. A lot of stores sold out for Christmas.
The main drivers have not changed: Frugality and not enough time to cook a major meal for the family. Although today’s cookers are safe (if you follow the instructions), problems of frugality and time are still with us. So cookers are hot once again.
I got the newest of the new cookers for Christmas, the sleek Hawkins Futura. Your average cooker looks like a hospital sterilizer. The Futura is art. The clampless lid takes some finesse, but YouTube solved it for me.
How Pressure Cookers Work
The key is water under pressure can be heated hotter than water in the free air. The steam is superheated, and this cooks up to 70 percent faster than the same food in a pot on the stove or in the oven. That’s the time savings and also the energy savings. It sounds implausible, but you can cook three pounds of chicken pieces in 10 minutes.
Is It Safe?
I like the Futura engineering. The lid seals from the inside against the curved rim of the pot. The pot would have to crack in half to lose its lid. All of Hawkins’ 48 million cookers are certified by Underwriter Laboratories. Don’t buy a cooker without a UL seal.
And The Taste
Fast cooking seals in the flavor. Vegetables cook too fast to lose their color or nutrients. You don’t need extra fats, and that saves calories. Cookers tenderize while cooking, and will make the toughest piece of beef or pork a delightful dish. No hesitation in buying the cheap cuts or BOGOs. Most recipes suggest browning meat in the cooker before adding a little water and fastening the lid.
Be sure to follow the recipes exactly. It’s better to use recipes specifically for pressure cookers than to adapt other ones, until you understand your pot. Brown the meat in the pot. Then add the water prescribed and secure the lid. Remove the regulator on top and place the pot over high heat. When steam is apparent, replace the regulator and start the timer.
As you would with a stove, you may add faster cooking items to the pot at later times to avoid overcooking. You can stop the pot at any time by removing it from the heat and releasing the steam. Open lid, add vegetables and close. Repeat steps for heating.
CHICKEN AND PEPPERS
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 large white onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
4 skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
1 red bell pepper, sliced lenthwise
1 green bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
3 cups chicken broth
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried basil
11⁄2 teaspoons dried oregano
16 ounces egg noodles, uncooked (optional)
1⁄2 cup fontinella cheese, grated
1⁄2 cup parmesan cheese, grated (2 ounces)
Heat oil in a pressure cooker, saute onion for three minutes. Add garlic, chicken pieces, and peppers. Saute over medium-high heat 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add tomato sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt, black pepper, and herbs. Add noodles and stir again. Secure lid.
Heat to high pressure. Reduce heat to maintain pressure and cook 10 minutes.
Release pressure according to manufacturer's directions. Remove lid.
Combine cheeses. Discard bay leaf. Stir chicken and noodle mixture and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with cheese. Serves 6.