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.
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:
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.