Once and awhile I'll work on a story that takes me in a completely different direction. A few weeks ago, I thought it would be grand fun to write a piece on nifty kitchen equipment since a well-stocked kitchen is as important as a good tool shed. If you have the right stuff, life will be much easier.
I interviewed Veronica, the owner of Pizazz, one of my all time favorite shops in Great Falls, who told me pressure cookers are making a comeback. I remembered my great aunt had one because I replaced the rubber gasket for her at a holiday dinner, and Grant tells tales of an entire pork roast shooting through the vent hole when one of those rotten boys hit the cooker while his mom was preparing dinner. He said all of the meat was on the ceiling, and the only thing left in the pan was the bone. Yikes.
With this anecdote in mind, I asked Veronica about their volatile reputation, and she assured me they are practically idiot proof. With three safety features, it would be hard to get a good explosion out of one. I had to have one.
So the slant of the article focused on pressure cooking. Experimentation was necessary! I started off easy with a batch of carrots. I tossed in four or five peeled and chunked carrots with one-half cup of chicken broth. They were done in five minutes. Every time I used it, I was more impressed.
Today, I hit the "wow" zone. I received Lorna Sass' book, Cooking Under Pressure, on Wednesday, and the first thing that caught my eye was the practicality of the recipes. There aren't a bunch of hard to find ingredients, and she explains the techniques in such a style that even a novice can understand.
My first choice was "Boeuf en Daube Provencal" because it was similar to the beef bourguignon that greatly disappointed me a few weeks ago. I cooked the bourguignon for hours, as directed, but the meat was dry. This recipe was simple. I marinated the meat overnight (this is ideal since working in short amounts of time is easier for me) in the wine with some of the spices. When I had a moment this morning, I sauteed an onion for a few minutes in the cooker before adding the wine marinade to reduce it. That entire process took roughly 10 minutes.
Then I dumped in the meat, added four whole carrots, secured the lid, and brought it up to temperature. Once it was rolling, it took 18 minutes followed by a 10 minute cool down to create an absolutely delicious dish. The meat falls apart on your fork. It took a fraction of the time, and the results are far superior than having the oven on for hours.
My only question is why haven't I tried pressure cooking sooner? This opens up a whole new world in the kitchen. Now, on to test something with beans...