Pressure Cooker Basics

March 12, 2012 § 15 Comments

And boy do I mean basics. I’m not a pressure-cooker expert—far from it. But I’m writing this because:

  1. My friend Katherine hinted that she’s always been a little uneasy using pressure cookers, and perhaps a Dainty tutorial was called for (um, Katherine, you’re a DOCTOR, and likely have had your hands elbow-deep IN people or delivered babies – my lord, if you can do that …)
  2. Pressure cookers are totally useful kitchen tools—they can cook some long-cooking bean or stew or hunk of meat in much less time. Who doesn’t need to shave some time off the cooking process without totally bailing and ordering take-out? If I can help spread pressure-cooker love to just one more person, then my mission is done (well, not done but I’d certainly feel good about it).
  3. I just pressure-cooked a pot of chickpeas, and since I need something to post about, why not this?

Again, I am sooo noooot a pressure-cooker expert. These are just some quick tips and bare-minimum suggestions from someone who was once afraid of the device and is now totally cool with its use.

Completely forget the stories your Mom or Grandma told you each summer … the story about their pressure cookers explosively losing their lids as their batch of homemade tomato sauce was being sealed and canned for winter. Sauce everywhere, they said, and you didn’t believe a word until Mom redid her kitchen and they moved the stove and found the tomato splatter evidence. THAT’S. NOT. GOING. TO. HAPPEN. Not nowadays. Not with a) today’s technology and b) today’s litigious society. A lid explodes, a child gets hurt … that can’t happen.

Spend the money. Buy a good, reputable brand. Jennifer bought a Kuhn-Rikon. It’s Swiss. And you know those Swiss.

Kuhn-Rikon pressure cooker

Read the manual. Seriously, do it.

Get a specialty cookbook with pressure-cooker recipes. We have Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. It’s very useful.

The gasket is important. It fits in the inner lip of the lid and helps create a seal within which the air pressure can increase. A damaged gasket? A missing gasket? No seal.

Make a match. Most lids fit on the pressure cooker pot in a certain way and require a certain action. Ours requires that the arrow on the lid match with the arrow on the pot handle, and with those matched up, you then twist and lid into a LOCKED position. With the lid locked, it’s not going anywhere.

Twist the lid on.

It hisses. When the pressure inside the pot increases to a high level, it will start hissing. Putting my “I’m not an expert” hat on, I believe the hissing happens when the pressure inside is too great, and the hissing is the “I’m too pressurized!” value releasing the excess pressure. The hissing is also a noise that reminds you, “Oh, right, I gotta turn the temperature down now.”

Leave it be. When your beans or stew or whatnot is done, just turn the heat off and let the pressure come down naturally. There will be some sort of indicator on your lid that will tell you when that happens (more of an explanation below). The steam within the sealed pot is SUPER heated and can severely burn you. So, take your time opening the lid and always open the lid AWAY from you. IF YOU MUST open the lid soon, you can place the sealed pot under running water to help bring the temperature and the pressure down. Again, the indicator on the lid will tell you when they’ve come down.

By way of example, here’s a simple recipe for cooking dried beans of any kind, and we used chickpeas.

Basic Beans in Aromatic Broth (based on the Pressure Perfect recipe)

  • 1 lb. dried beans (in this case, chickpeas), rinsed and with bad beans removed
  • 9 cups water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbs oil (helps prevent foaming)
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic, leave skin on
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large celery
  • Leek greens (if you have them)

-Add all ingredients in a 6-qt. or larger pressure cooker. Lock the lid according to your manual.

Everyone in the pool!

-Turn the heat on high and bring the pressure within the cooker to high. AS AN EXAMPLE, high pressure is indicated on our Kuhn-Rikon when two red bars appear.

The two red bars indicate high pressure has been reached.

-Turn heat down so it’s just hot enough to maintain the pressure at high. In our case, we turn our gas from high down to just between “2” and “lo.” That works perfectly.

-Maintain high heat for the number of minutes indicated in your pressure cooker book for that specific bean. For chickpeas, that would be 28-30 minutes for a firm bean (for stews and such) and up to 35 for a softer chickpea that would be used in purees such as hummus.

-When the timer goes off, you can let the pressure come down naturally (15-20 minutes or so) or put it under cool running water until the pressure comes down. TILT the lid away from you no matter what. You gotta be careful.

Chickpeas in their broth after about 28 minutes at high pressure followed by about 20 minutes on a natural cool-down.

-Try a few. Too firm? Hard, in fact? Put the lid in place, lock it, and bring it up to pressure again for between 1-5 minutes, depending on how firm you think they are. Go through the same depressurizing process.

-Look at that! You made beans!!

-Lorna suggests that if you have the time, let the beans cool in their liquid. That way they will complete the cooking process. Meanwhile, remove the carrot, celery, bay leaves and garlic, and discard.

-When you are ready to drain, you should totally reserve that cooking liquid. It’s ideal as a water or veggie stock replacement in soups or stews. So, put a colander over a bowl to catch the brothy goodness.

Reserve the tasty liquid and use it as a replacement for water or stock in soups and stews.

Still on the fence about using a pressure cooker? Leave a comment below and let me know where you stand!

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Pressure Cooking Black Beans

September 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

You’re going to think I’m a bit crazy, but I actually really like this two-thirds vegan kick I’m on. Now, let me clarify:

Dry black beans

Buy the dry - dried black beans are easy as pie to cook up and enjoy in 30 minutes.

1a. Two-thirds vegan means two meals out of three meals each day are non-dairy, non-poultry, non-animal products. Not even a boiled egg on my lunchtime salad – and I love a good boiled egg, too.

1b. What about snacks, you ask? What am I gonna do, eat a meat stick? Almonds, an apple, hummus and chips if I feel the need.

2. I first mentioned the two-thirds vegan thing back in … was it March? April? Lest you think I’m Superwoman, I need to inform you that I haven’t been two-thirds vegan all the time. Vacations don’t count. Weekends away don’t count. And sometimes that boiled egg would find its way onto of my salad. And, last week … I had a whole mess o’ Old Bay-seasoned wings on my business trip to Baltimore. The only wings I’ll eat, and the only town I eat them in. There are rules about being two-thirds vegan, and I make them up as I go along.

3. And sometimes, you go away for the weekend and someone makes you a three-egg omelet. With mozzarella. And lobster. Just be sure there’s a veggie burger in your near future.

BUT! It’s a new season. And I have a renewed interest in sticking to the vegan thing. At least two-thirds of the time.

BUT! I need more protein. That’s what a recent doctor visit and blood test suggested. So, here come the beans, which are an excellent source of protein and fiber awesomely tasty food. Rather than stocking up on cans upon cans of beans – they add salt and calcium chloride, which, by the way IS a salt! – we buy the dry. Oooo … I like the way that sounds, “buy the dry.” Plus, they are cheaper (I’m showing my frugal side).

Dry beans are NOT a pain in the ass to work with. It’s easy. If Dainty can do it, so can you. And you don’t have to wait around 24 hours while your beans soak, etc. etc. Invest in a pressure cooker and your beans will be done in 30 minutes, and that includes 5 minutes of prep time.

The recipe we use comes from Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. (Oooo … sassy.) Hey, meat lovers, there’s a roast chicken on the cover! That’ll assure you Lorna has added something for everyone inside. There are a bunch of bean recipes included – the one we use is for black beans with soft tortillas. We use just the first half of the recipe and add our own seasonings depending on what we’re using the beans for. Here, I’ll just go through the first process and produce a batch of pressure-cooked beans.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 cups water (depending on how much bean broth you want)
  • 1.5 cups dried black beans, pick over to remove icky ones, small pebbles, etc. and rinse
  • 1 small onion
  • 4 cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 TBS oil (apparently it prevents or controls foaming)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

-Combine everything in a 4 qt. pressure cooker.

-Lock the lid in place. If you’re like me, you’ll do it three or four times, making absolutely sure the lid is on and won’t fly off. Seriously though, when it’s locked, it’s locked. No hardhat needed.

-Bring the pressure cooker to high pressure over high heat. READ YOUR PRESSURE COOKER INSTRUCTIONS! It will tell you how you can tell when it has reached high pressure. For our Fagor pressure cooker, high pressure is indicated when two red lines are visible.

-When it has reached high pressure, turn down the heat to a temp that will maintain that high pressure. For ours and on our gas stove, that means at a point between “lo” and “2”.

-Let the beans bubble away in there for 25 minutes. Then turn off the heat. Let them sit there as is – don’t open the lid! – and let the pressure come down naturally. READ your cooker instructions to find out how you can tell on your device.

-When the pressure has come down, open the lid AWAY from you. You don’t want to get a face full of super-heated steam, right? Always always always be careful.

-The beans should be tender. If not, lock it up, stick ’em back on the heat and cook for another couple of minutes. Repeat the heat coming down and all that.

What you have now are several cups of firm yet tender beans in broth. If you used 6 cups of water, you are halfway on the path to making a black bean soup. If you used 4 cups of water, you have a bit less broth. Letting it sit, the beans and broth will thicken slightly but not much.

We use 4 cups of water, and after the beans are pressure cooked, we typically add a touch more salt, some pepper, several shakes of red pepper and a diced small tomato. We then serve it over a bowl of rice. We’ve added other things, as well – roasted sweet potato, butternut squash, for example.

black beans in broth

We add a touch of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and diced tomatoes to our black beans.

If you have any suggestions for what to add in to the black beans, I’d love your suggestions. We need to keep up the variety. Please leave your comments below!

 

Double Mushroom Barley Soup

April 26, 2011 § 3 Comments

Will spring ever get here? Until it does, one of the ways to deal with cold and damp weather is with hot soup. Hot, hearty soup. This is one of our favorites in the hot and hearty category. It’s “double” mushroom because it uses both fresh and dried mushrooms. Adding the dried gives the soup its earthy heartiness.

This is another recipe Jennifer acquired from a soup class several years ago. Note on the bottom says it’s from the Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure book. Ah, yes, “under pressure.” This is made in a pressure cooker! Have no fear, people—pressure cookers won’t explode on your stove top. And if you don’t have a pressure cooker, just cover and simmer for … well, I’m not sure. Just keep checking to see if the barley is toothy.

As before, the recipe below is with our adjustments

Double mushroom barley soup

Double Mushroom Barley Soup

  • 2-3 tsp olive oil
  • 2-3 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cups chopped onions or 2 thinly sliced leeks (I use onions here)
  • 6 cups boiling stock (see note in recipe)
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1/2 lb sliced fresh mushrooms, white buttons are fine
  • 1/2 oz. sliced dried mushrooms
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1.5 tbs dill weed
  • salt and pepper to taste

-Put dried mushrooms in a medium bowl. Add about 2 cups boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep for 15 minutes.

-Now, for the “6 cups boiling stock” – set a pot of about 4 cups stock (veggie is good, chicken is okay if you don’t have veggie) to boil. You’re going to add the mushroom liquid to it when those are done steeping.

-While the mushrooms are steeping is a good time chop your veg.

-When mushrooms have steeped, drain the liquid into a measuring cup. You should have a bit less than 2 cups. Just add water to fill up to 2 cups. Add to the pot of stock. Reserve mushrooms.

-Heat oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker (or soup pot if not using a pressure cooker) to medium-high. Add garlic and onions. Cook for 1 minute, stirring so they don’t stick. Add the stock and then invite everyone else into the pool!

-Lock the top onto the pressure cooker. Bring it up to high pressure, then lower heat to maintain that pressure. Let it cook away for 18 minutes. Then, remove pressure cooker from the heat and place it under cool running water to bring the pressure down quickly. Remove the lid, being sure to face it away from you. You don’t wanna get hit with a cloud of steam!

-IF you’re not using a pressure cooker, bring the soup to boil, cover the pot but leave a little crack, and then turn it down a bit to simmer. Let it bubble along for … let’s say 35 minutes and then check every 5 minutes or so until you feel the barley is cooked.

-Discard the bay leaves. Add a bit more salt and pepper. In my opinion it needs more salt than you’d think.

-With barley in there, it’s going to thicken up, especially after being in the fridge for a day or two. Just be aware. If you want, add some stock or water to thin it out a bit. I kinda like the soups that turn into stews the next days.

It’s one of those soups that is dinner-worthy if you pair it with a salad or suitable for lunch with some toast. In fact, it’ll be my vegan lunch in about 3 hours.

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