Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Musings

Our hard working instructors
I thoroughly enjoyed my cooking class on Friday evening:  Global Flavors: Cooking Under Pressure.

I was the only one in the class (8 of us) who uses a stove top cooker pressure.  Everyone else uses an electric plug in pot that sits on the kitchen counter.  I think they are called "Instant Pots."  Just like a stove top model, except that everything is programmed, and you can walk away from it and it will automatically shut itself off when cooking is complete.  That's handy for busy cooks who are perhaps juggling babies, children, homework or any other sort of distraction.  For the 'retired' cook, such as myself, I can afford to stick around and keep an eyeball on the pot.

In the space of two hours, our teachers made Aloo Gobi (a curry dish involving potatoes and cauliflower), Basmati Rice, Shawarma Roast Beef (yum), Hummus and lastly, and bestly, Lemon Cheesecake.  Yes, cheesecake!  And it was delicious!  Cooked in small ramekins, this particular recipe was not overly sweet and the texture was lighter than the dense cakes I often find commercially.  I found I prefer it lighter in texture.  The hummus was also the best I've tasted.  It was cooked from dried beans, which, according the the instructors, makes all the difference.  Apparently so.  I've always made my from canned and have never been super wild about it.

One of the best tips of the night was the link to Hip Pressure Cooking website for all things related: conversion charts, tips, recipes, advice and history of the pressure cooker.

All modern stove top pressure cookers are safe.  They are not going to blow up on you.  People are scared of them (I was) but there is no need.  One of my favorite uses for the cooker is to make soup stock, both meat and vegetable.  It is so fast and easy, and the results are an extremely rich stock that can be used in a variety of ways (soups, risotto, gravy and cooking rice).  Today I am making a cream of asparagus soup because I bought a huge amount of asparagus at Costco and I want to use it all while it is fresh.  I will use the veg stock I made in the pressure cooker last week.

Just about anything you can cook, you can cook under pressure.  But not diary or liquor.  Diary clumps and should be stirred into the dish when it is finished cooking.  Liquor will stay in the pot as steam and could ignite when you release the pressure valve.  Good to know.

And cooking garlic?  Not with this method.  It will lose all its flavor.  Add it in at the end after cooking.

There were some tips that were new to me, and wouldn't make sense unless you are familiar with a cooker.  Such as -- do not "quick release" the pressure in most cases following cooking.  Allow the pressure to reduce naturally before releasing the valve.  I did not know this.

One of the funniest parts of the class was when all the older gals talked about how the printing on the Instant Pot buttons was so tiny none of us could read it!  They need to make models for old eyes like ours.  You know, like those telephone key pads that are writ large.  The electric pots can be pricey because they are all the rage right now, and I don't like the complicated electronic settings.  They are also HUGE and would take up valuable storage space in the kitchen.  My pot fits in right next to the large pot I use for boiling pasta water.

There are many different ways to skin a cat, er, cook a meal.  When I was a working mom, the Crockpot slow cooker was my best friend.  Prep the night before, turn it on it the morning, go to work without a worry, and walk in at 5:30 to a finished and ready dinner.  Now, it's the pressure cooker, which allows me to cook my favorite dishes in a fraction of the time.  I've also discovered that cooking under pressure will often enhance the flavor of the food over conventional stove top cooking.  For instance, adjust spices when pressure cooking, or the spice will overwhelm the dish!

If you are PC curious, browse the internet.  Plenty of resources.

Bon Appetit!

9 comments:

  1. I've never tried pressure cooking. It does sound like an interesting way to cook a meal. Makes me wonder where such an idea got started and why. I'll spend this rainy day googling around to find out. Glad it was such a good and inspiring class.

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  2. Sounds interesting. We have a stove top pressure cooker but only use it off and on without a lot of imagination. I like the post and tips

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    1. Check out the website. Full of good ideas.

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  3. Interesting to learn that there is now an electric pressure cooker and that you are using the original stove top version with great success. Our mother used to pressure cook artichokes. Growing up near the Northern California coast, we learned to love artichokes early in life. As I recall, that is the only reason she used the pressure cooker. She came to California from Minnesota in the 1930s. I wonder if that is when she learned to pressure cook artichokes. So many questions I wish I could ask my mother!

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    1. It is sooo good for artichokes! I, too, was raised in N. California and artichokes were a staple. We even had plants in the home garden.

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  4. My dad gave us a stovetop pressure cooker ages ago, and I thought we had unloaded it, but apparently my beloved kept it even though we never use it. Because it scares me! It must have arrived when I was in my 30's, but that meant kids and full time work and no, I did not need a "convenience" that might explode in my face. But I will try to re-think this. ;)

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    1. You never know what delights you may discover!

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  5. we eat we'll, the pressure cooker is a godsend, and Tara's food is delicious.

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  6. Reading about all the wonderful Indian food made me crave sambar. For some odd reason, it's the only thing I've made in the pressure cooker. I will take you at your word that my pressure cooker is safe; I bought it used from an Indian couple who were returning home after finishing university in Dallas. I've always been a little afraid of it. ;-)

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