The pressure’s on
By CHRIS COLBY
Versatile and useful cooking gadgets, electric pressure cookers make wonderful braised meats, will cook beans without soaking, and are great for stocks and most one-pot soups and stews. Dishes that traditionally take a long time to cook can be made in substantially less time, and you can even start with frozen meat. Many electric pressure cookers are multifunctional (called “multicookers”) and have the ability to slow-cook, steam, and saute. Some models will even make yogurt.
I love to cook, so I own multicookers by Instant Pot and Crock-Pot. Although I’ll never discard my slow cookers, Dutch ovens, or rice cooker, I’ve found my multicookers to be quite handy. Both are programmable, with a similar range of functions. Both have easy-to-clean removable inner pots; the Crock-Pot Express Crock’s is no-stick while the Instant Pot’s is stainless steel.
Electric pressure cookers are easy to use-just place your food in the pot along with at least a small amount of liquid, lock on the lid, and select a cooking time. The sealed cooker heats the food and liquid, which creates steam and raises the pressure inside. The cooking timer starts when the proper pressure is reached. When the cooking time has elapsed, the pot beeps to alert you, and begins slowly releasing pressure. An automatic warmer kicks in to keep the food warm until you’re ready to eat. As with stovetop pressure cookers, electric cookers have a valve that lets you bring down the pressure in about 2 minutes (known as “quick release”), or you can let the pressure drop on its own in about 20 minutes (“natural release”).
Most multicookers hold 6 quarts of food. Some units allow you to cook at high or low pressure settings; most have a maximum working pressure of around 12 pounds per square inch (psi). Water in an open pot at sea level boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, but at 10 psi it boils at 239 degrees, and at 5 psi it boils at 227 degrees – so cooking under pressure means cooking at higher temperatures than open vessels, which results in food cooking faster.
Cooking times for electric pressure cooker recipes can be up to 70 percent shorter than standard. However, this doesn’t include the time for the unit to come to pressure – and that depends on the quantity and initial temperature of the food being cooked. A full 6-quart electric cooker with room-temperature ingredients will reach pressure in about 35 minutes. If there’s only a cup of water inside, as there would be when steaming food, the time to pressure is only about 5 minutes.
For dishes that don’t take long to cook normally, the time savings can be used up waiting for the machine to come to pressure. But for foods with a long cooking time, the reduction in total preparation time can be substantial. Inexpensive, tough cuts of meat are well suited to pressure cookers, because they’re rendered tender and flavorful in much shorter cooking time than on the stovetop or in the oven.
Here are three recipes to maximize the efficiency and usefulness of an electric pressure cooker, saving you valuable time in the kitchen.
Yields about 4 quarts.
Whenever you cook chicken, save the bones in a zip-close bag in your freezer until you’re ready to make stock with this simple recipe. Some stock recipes call for more spices-often white peppercorn, cloves, and thyme. You can add about a teaspoon of each of these if you wish, but a neutral stock is more flexible in cooking.
4 to 5 pounds chicken bones
(carcasses, necks, backs, legs,
thighs, or wings)
1 medium onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, cut into 4 pieces
2 carrots, cut into 4 pieces
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
Place all ingredients in electric pressure cooker. Cover with cool water, about 5 quarts.
Cook at 10 psi for 30 minutes, and then allow pressure to come down naturally.
Ladle stock into food storage containers and let cool, then refrigerate overnight. Freeze stock you don’t intend to use within 3 days.
Chicken and dumplings
Yields 6 to 8 servings.
If you aren’t going to serve the entire dish immediately, remove the volume of soup that will be saved as leftovers, and then add a proportional amount of dumplings to the pot and finish cooking. Refrigerate the unused dumplings and the soup separately, and combine them when you reheat the soup.
4 cups all-purpose baking mix
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
Flour, for rolling
8 chicken thighs
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 medium onion
1 cup frozen green peas, optional
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
It’s best to make the dumplings 3 to 4 hours before making the soup.
To make dumplings: In a large bowl, combine baking mix, butter, and milk, and mix well. Let the dough sit for about 3 minutes. If dough is crumbly, add more milk, about 2 teaspoons at a time. If dough is too thin or tacky, add more baking mix, a few pinches at a time. Work the dough a bit, and then let it sit for 2 minutes. When the dough holds together and is just barely tacky, turn out onto a floured cutting board.
Flatten the dough to 1/4 inch or thinner. Sprinkle dill over dough and press lightly with hands, or flatten with a floured rolling pin. Sprinkle a small amount of flour over the dough, flip the dough, and sprinkle dill and flour on the other side.
Cut dough into strips (a pizza cutter works great). Place dough strips in a food storage container, separating the layers with a paper towel. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours.
To make soup: Remove the skin from the chicken thighs. Cut the meat into bite-sized strips.
Select the saute function and let the electric pressure cooker heat up.
Place the chicken skin in the cooker and let it heat until the fat renders and the skin is crisp, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Remove the skin and discard; keep heating the fat using the saut function. Add the chicken strips to the pot, and cook in the hot fat for about 2 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.
Add and saute the garlic in the chicken fat until golden. Turn off the cooker. Remove and discard garlic, leaving the fat.
Measure the amount of fat remaining in the cooker, and measure out an equal amount of flour. Turn on the saute function, and gradually stir in flour to make a roux. Slowly add the chicken stock, stirring constantly. Add the chicken, onion, and enough water to bring the volume in the pot to 7 cups.
Turn off the saute function, put the lid on the cooker, and pressure cook at 10 psi for 15 minutes. When finished, let the pressure come down on its own.
Remove the lid, and turn on the slow cooker function (to “high” if there’s an option). Remove the onion half and discard. Add the peas (if using), poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper, and taste for flavor, adjusting the seasonings if needed.
Add the dumpling strips vertically into the soup and let them cook for 15 minutes, or until completely cooked through. Thicker dumplings will take longer.
Note: If your cooker doesn’t have a saute setting, perform steps 5 through 8 in a skillet on the stovetop, and then transfer the ingredients to the cooker.
Fern’s company stew
Yields 6 to 8 servings.
My Norwegian grandmother made this stew whenever company was coming, but their arrival time was up in the air. The original recipe called for simmering the stew for 5 hours on the stovetop; in an electric pressure cooker, the cook time drops to 21/2 hours.
3-pound Boston butt pork roast
1 pound dry pinto beans
61/2 cups water
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cube pork bouillon
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons Italian oregano
5 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
Corn chips, optional
Shredded cheddar cheese, optional
Trim excess fat from pork roast; set aside.
Add beans, water, onion, garlic, bouillon, salt, oregano, chili powder, and cumin to the electric pressure cooker, and stir until combined.
Add pork roast, and pressure cook for 150 minutes. When finished, allow pressure to drop naturally.
Open cooker and shred pork inside using two forks, then mix to combine all ingredients. If stew is too dry, add just enough water to bring liquid level with top of ingredients, stir, and cook for an additional 15 minutes using slow cooker function. If stew is too thin, heat with slow cooker function for 15 to 30 minutes with lid off. Serve over bed of corn chips and top with shredded cheddar, if desired.
NOTE: For a Tex-Mex version, add a 4-ounce can of diced tomatoes and green chiles and use Mexican oregano instead of Italian oregano. You can also use an additional tablespoon of cumin and 2 more tablespoons of chili powder.
Excerpted from Grit, Celebrating Rural America Since 1882. To read more articles from Grit, please visit www.grit.com, or call 866-803-7096. Copyright 2020 by Ogden Publications Inc.
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