My mom's old pressure cooker was noisy and scary. I have memories of the top valve rattling and belching steam every time she used it for canning. As a kid with a fertile imagination, I was terrified of the thing.
Then in the early 1990s after my sister-in-law nearly burned her kitchen down with one, I swore I'd never own one.
Lately I've seen pressure cookers used on shows like Top Chef, where they simmer what should have taken hours and hours in a Crockpot to less than an hour in a pressure cooker.
Cheaper cuts of meat, like brisket and chuck, cook to perfection in the pressure cooker just like they do in the Crockpot. That made me curious, but I still counted myself among the fearful.
Alas, my sister surprised us this Christmas with the gift of a Swiss-made Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker. I was a bit intimidated as I tore open the package but I have to admit it's a fine piece of machinery.
Before I even tried to use it I laid in bed and read the manual from cover to cover. That is an absolute must if you're going to use a pressure cooker.
Anything that requires liquid can be cooked in one.
They are available in stove-top or electric models, and both work on the same principle. Foods and liquids are placed inside a pot that has a pressurized chamber, and the steam transfers heat to them. The pressure builds up inside the pot to cook the food at a high temperature, while allowing it to retain its moisture and nutritional value.
I was sold early on during my testing phase.
The Duromatic top alone sealed the deal: no more foaming spillovers, no more noisy valve, no fear that the “jiggler” will hit the ceiling followed by a volcano of liquid hot magma.
It turns out pressure cookers are no more menacing than a deep-fryer or a waffle iron. And while I knew they were fast, what really won me over was the way the food tastes once it's cooked in them. It's as delicious as if I'd simmered it for hours.
I just love it! It's already added to my arsenal of favorite kitchen tools.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.
Kerala Coconut Chicken Curry
For the coconut spice paste:
2 small dried red chilies
6 large shallots, peeled and halved
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut, grated
4 whole cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick
3 green cardamom pods
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
For the chicken curry:
1 tablespoon vegetable or coconut oil
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large yellow onions, sliced
2 1/2 to 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bit-size pieces
3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
Using a stovetop pressure cooker, place the uncovered pot over medium heat to begin preparing the coconut spice paste. Roast the red chilies and shallots together until lightly browned. Remove and set aside in the bowl of a small food processor.
Add the coconut and whole spices to the hot pressure cooker pan and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly until fragrant, toasted and the coconut has turned light brown. Add the turmeric and stir for another few seconds, and then transfer the coconut and spices to the food processor bowl.
Blend until fairly smooth, adding 4 to 6 tablespoons of water to create a creamy paste. Set aside.
To begin the chicken curry, add oil to the hot pressure cooker pot. When it's hot, add chopped ginger, garlic and sliced onions. Sauté for 10 to 15 minutes or until onions are softened and browned around the edges. Add the coconut spice paste and fry for 1 minute. Add the sliced tomatoes and fry for 5 minutes or until tomatoes have broken down. Stir in chicken, salt and vinegar. Mix well.
Cover the pressure cooker and lock the lid. Bring up to pressure. Cook on HIGH pressure for 10 minutes, then let the pressure release naturally for another 8 to 15 minutes.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with rice.
Source: Adapted from www.thekitchn.com.