Saturday, February 27, 2016

Pressure Cooking

Amita gave me a jiggle top pressure cooker for Diwali, and it sat until she visited at Christmas, when I asked her for a demonstration. As it came to pressure it started to jiggle and let off a high-pitched scream. I thought it was about to explode and ducked, which made Amita and her mom laugh hysterically. They cook with jiggle tops all the time and are used to the commotion. It wasn't very much later that we were sipping Amita's delicious lentil soup.

I gave the cooker a try a week later, and didn't get quite the same results. No jiggling, no steam release and the entire contents burned because I hadn't locked the lid properly. I figured I needed a foolproof version, so went out and purchased a model with a few additional safety features. I like hearing this one snap close and being able to see when the pot has locked under full pressure.

For someone like me who likes lifting the lid to visually check on progress, using the pressure cooker has been a bit of a learning curve. I've undercooked a few times, which isn't really a problem, because it is easy enough to pop the cover back on and return to full pressure, or finish off cooking conventionally. I've also learned by trial and error that keeping track of cooking time is important when you can't easily lift the lid to check when something is done, and that it's also important to lower the heat source once the pot has reached full pressure, to prevent burning and scorching.

Turns out a lot of YachtPals are fans of pressure cookers because of their efficient use of fuel and ability to turn humble ingredients into tasty meals.

I've been experimenting with fava and lima beans, navy beans, and green lentils. Such delicous soups, salads, and stews. By happy coincidence, Bon Appetit ran a feature in January about cooking with beans, and had fantastic recipes for pasta fagilioli and cassoulet.

The cookbook 225 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes is inspiring me to try new meals during the work week, like chicken nicoise, butter chicken, and green lentil and spinach gratin. Comfort food in a fraction of the time!

Chicken Nicoise
2 1/4 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 slices smoky bacon
4 cloves garlic minced
1 large onion chopped
1/2 cup dry wine
2 cups chopped canned tomatoes
1 tsp oregano and thyne
1 bay leaf
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup olives (pitted nicoise or kalamata)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp Asian chile paste
1 Tbsp fresh basil
salt and pepper

1.  Season the chichen with salt and pepper, set aside.
2. in pressure cooker, saute bacon for 3 minutes. Add chicken ad saute until nicely browned. REmove chicken and bacon and set aside.
3. Add oil to the cooker. Saut garlic, onion and red pepper until softened. Stir in wine and simmer for one minute, stirring up any brown bits. Add tomatoes, oregano, thyme, and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return chicken, bacon and any juices to the pot.
4. Lock the lid in place and bring cooker up to full pressure over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low, just to maintain even pressure, and cook for 20 minutes. Release pressure quickly and remove the lid. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Stir in arichoke hearts, olives, lemon zest and chili paste, simmer until heated through. Serve sprinkled with fresh basil.

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