The Final Kitchen Frontier

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I conquered my fear of the pressure cooker.

Really, why was I actually afraid to use the darn thing?

Oh yes, now I remember. Growing up, the pressure cooker appeared to me to be this complicated contraption full of hissing steam. We were warned to stay back from it. Secretly I feared it would blow up. And watching my grandmother release the pressure from it while balancing a ping pong on top of the steam–while totally cool to a little kid–also made me realize the force that was within this hot steaming cauldron. My mom used one too and made delicious pot roasts and stews in a third of the time. But I used my slow cooker for those kinds of meals so I never felt compelled to pull out this dangerous high-pressure ticking time bomb.

So I exaggerate a little. We think of it as hyperbole, a literary technique. But I digress. Back to the pressure cooker.

A friend not too long ago told me she was cooking dried beans in the pressure cooker and that it was amazingly fast. I’ve long been buying dried beans. They are a lot less expensive than canned beans, and you can cook up a big batch and then freeze them for later use. However, there is a degree of pre-planning required to cook dried beans. My most common cooking method is to fast soak them by boiling the beans for about 3 minutes then letting them sit, covered, burner off, for an hour. Drain, rinse, add new water, bring to a boil then simmer for about 90 minutes (or longer, you have to check them at that point to make sure they are tender). If I stayed home all day, I could pull that off the day of use. But I don’t. Even on days I don’t work, I typically run about and can’t stick around the house and babysit a boiling pot. So I keep a supply of canned beans in the pantry for when I need them last minute and don’t have time for cooking dried beans.

But now that could change.

pressure

I went down to the basement to get an extra large pot to make homemade veggie stock (that’s a separate post) and saw my neglected and dusty pressure cooker sitting on a shelf. I brought it up and cleaned it off, pulled out the booklet that came with it and decided to make beans. Chick peas seemed like a good starting point as I had just bought a giant bag of them in bulk on sale (69 cents a pound, way cheaper than cans!). My pressure cooker instructions said to soak the beans for at least 4 hours or longer, then cook at high pressure for 12 minutes. Now before you do this, go read the instructions to your pressure cooker. They are probably all a bit different. I put my soaked chickpeas (not pre-boiled, but left out on the counter in water for about 6 or so hours) in the cooker and added plenty of water but my cooker said not to fill more than 1/2 way. The instructions said to add oil to keep it from foaming, but I skipped this because I didn’t want oil in my beans–ick. I locked up the contraption, crossed myself preventatively, and put it on the stove top on high. When it began to steam I reduced the heat, but kept it high enough for a little steamy-hiss to continue. Set the timer for 12 minutes. Took them off the burner. I tried to let the pressure come back down naturally but got impatient (surprise!) and used the steam release setting. When the steam was totally released I opened up the lock and there were perfectly cooked chick peas.

Soft enough that I could easily turn them into homemade falafels. I’ll share that recipe later. Here they are prior to cooking:

falafel 1

The wisdom of the ancients, at work in my kitchen. Awesome.

If you use a pressure cooker, what do you cook in it? I am tempted to try making vegetable soup, cooking beans right in the broth.

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8 responses »

  1. That ping-pong gag was one of our father’s favorites. And then there were the times when the dammed thing would blow and I’d practically crawl under the living room couch I was so frightened by the noise and all that steam.. But, at least you knew that the safety valve worked! It did make great pot roasts and corned beef and cabbage feasts, but I vowed once I grew up that I’d never have one, and I never did… Where would I hide? I can’t possibly fit under the couch any more….

  2. ok – I’m a bit of a pressure-cooker hoarder. I have a 4qt (my first purchase, just to see if I could use one), an 8qt (once I determined I could use a PC) and my newest purchase, an electric PC, which I’ve only used once, and a PC Canner. There’s probably a group somewhere I should join for PC obsession. My absolute favorite is brown rice – 18 minutes, soft & fluffy. For as many as I own, I don’t use them nearly enough. I’ve made roasts, chicken, ham & bean soup. Ironically, I’ve never made beans!

    • I have a smaller one that I think is 4 qt, that’s the one I used for this recipe. I also have an electric one but I’m not sure it’s size, and haven’t experimented with it yet. I will have to try the brown rice. That would turn this into a kitchen staple as waiting 40 minutes+ for brown rice to cook doesn’t work on nights I forget to plan ahead. Great tip! And the pressure canner… we will have to talk next summer! I like to can but have only done things I can do in a boiling water canner.

  3. PC Brown rice – 1 C brown rice : 1 3/4 C water. Bring the water to boil in the PC, then add the rice, cover and bring to pressure, cook for 18 minutes, release pressure naturally.
    I usually add a few drops more water and I also make 3 cups of rice at a time, then freeze the extra.

    • Thanks Sherri! I think it is because we are at high altitude, the water boils off faster. I usually use extra water when I make rice on the stove top. I will definitely give this a try next time I make rice!

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