Sunday, September 02, 2007

Bright Shiny New Toy

“Fear not the pressure cooker!” These very words wandered through my mind as I made my first, uh, pressure-cooked food item. Given to me as a birthday gift (thanks mom and dad!) this item really did feel like a new toy. Nothing to be afraid of--no one should ever have to run from a kitchen tool (except dull kitchen knives, they're certainly scary).

Our first playtime session together was cooking dried black beans, done in (total time) about 45 minutes. I was so worried the pressure would cause the cooker to explode in my face or blow up our building. However, all turned out just fine. They were the best black beans we'd ever tasted, surely surpassing the canned variety (not to mention at a fraction of the cost). The instructions I used were in the manual that came with the cooker, and it worked perfectly.

My second adventure was with chicken stock, and I swear this is the best way to make it. I've been converted.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Stock
bones & bits from 1 rotissiere chicken (no skin or icky fatty parts. yuck.)
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 small onion, sliced into quarters (leaving the skin on gives the stock a nice golden color)
a few peppercorns
1 bay leaf
enough water to cover the ingredients
(you could also add 1 tsp salt, but I prefer to add that later on when I'm making soup)

Put all ingredients in the pressure cooker, secure the lid, and put on the little topper. Once the little topper (or whatever it's called) on the pressure cooker starts to wobble, set a timer for 15 minutes. After this time period, remove the pot from heat, and follow your cooker's instructions for decreasing the pressure inside the pot. I run mine under cold sink water.

You'll need to strain this well, as you don't want weird chicken parts ending up in your stock (at least, I don't). Traditionally, cooks use a few layers of cheesecloth over a colander and strain it into a big pot or bowl. I, however, never have cheesecloth on hand and have found that the large fine mesh strainer I use to wash rice works perfectly. Let this strain for about 10 minutes or so, to ensure that all the liquids have drained. Discard the chunky parts.

Let the stock cool down. Once cool, I usually pour it into a container or two (measure it out so that you know how much is in each one), chill in the fridge and then stick them into the freezer. The stock could also be stored in the fridge for a day or two; my problem with this is that I'll forget it is there.

I haven't tried other versions of this yet, but I would think that this process could also produce a tasty vegetable stock or beef stock.

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