Pressure cooker

The big new appliance everyone is talking about is the “Insta-Pot”.  Actually, I think that is a brand name for an Instant Pot.  I thought it was basically a new name for an old appliance called a pressure cooker.  However, the information I found says it can take the place of 7 appliances–pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker and warmer.  And unlike my pressure cooker (which I love), it is electric so it is programmable.  It just so happens that I own all of the above appliances and enjoy using them, but if space were a great concern or I didn’t own them, I would definitely try this.

One of the things to love about an Instant pot, is the safety,  Pressure cookers have been around a long time but they fell into bad repute when during WW II they were made with cheap available materials and had fewer safety features than today’s so they were explodable.  It was a rare occurrence but only once was enough–to have tomatoes or potatoes or whatever was in the pot all over your ceiling, walls, and you.  Also people were seriously injured occasionally.  Now the new pressure cookers have many built-in safety features that insure that that won’t happen.

With the fast lifestyle of today and an avid interest in healthy cooking, pressure cooking is ideal.  Pressure cooking takes about one-third of the time of regular cooking and fewer fats are needed.  Additionally, there is very little evaporation, so fewer nutrients are lost.  Pans are usually made from stainless steel and have a heavy layer welded on the bottom to increase heat distribution and prevent burning.  Several safety valves are built in the new pans, so that it is virtually impossible for the pot to explode.  If all these advantages were not enough, pressure cookers are energy efficient and have a tenderizing effect on low-cost meats.  Yes, you can use your old-style pressure cookers, but because they do not have the added safety features, a new stainless steel one is a small investment for the return. Or you can use your new “Insta-pot”.

If you’re like I am—you’ve forgotten to put everything in the slow-cooker in the morning and you’re halfway through the day when you remember.  No problem; when you get home, you can brown in the pressure cooker (not possible in the crockpot, so you have to dirty two pans), then throw in the rest of the ingredients, the liquid and seal.   Fifteen to forty minutes later, voila! Dinner.

Yesterday I decided to try cooking a whole frozen 5 1/2 pound chicken for a noon dinner.  With the help of my microwave to defrost it (15 minuets),  I browned it in my pressure cooker (10 minutes),  added 2 cups of water and put the cover on.  I opened it by slow method (turning the heat off and letting it come down in pressure naturally (12 minutes) after 30 minutes.  I thought it needed a bit longer so I brought the pressure back up and cooked it for 10 minutes more. This time I used the fast method to bring pressure down  which is either the steam escape valve on my model or running cold water over the cover.  Perfect, falling off the bone, but very moist and delicious.  After removing the meat, I added cut up potatoes and butternut squash and closed the lid again.  After 10 minutes of pressure we had a delicious meal.  About 1 hour and 45 minutes from a frozen solid large chicken and raw potatoes and squash to yummy dinner!!

After enjoying our meal, I had loads of chicken meat to stow away.  I made freezer containers of white meat, dark meat and scraps separately.  Then I strained the rest and put the bones, etc. into a pot of water and cooked it for about an hour.  Strained again and picked meaty pieces out of the bones for a delicious chicken soup.  the original liquid I had already saved as clear broth.  This chicken will go a very long way for my husband and me to have the makings of several delicious meals in the freezer.

We love soups at our house and the pressure cooker is made for making delicious soups in a hurry.  Here are a couple that cook fast and taste delicious!

CABBAGE SOUP WITH CARAWAY

2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 Tbsp caraway seeds
2 cups apple cider
2 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups cold water
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes,
2/3 cup uncooked white rice
1 medium head cabbage (2 lbs), cored and shredded
1 tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste

Heat butter in the pressure cooker.  Sauté the onions and caraway until soft, 3 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients.  Lock lid in place and over high heat bring to high pressure.  Adjust heat to maintain high pressure and cook for 5 minutes,  Reduce pressure with quick-release method.  Remove lid, adjust seasonings and serve.  Sour cream is a good add on for the top of the soup.

The one I made the day after the original meal was absolutely delicious.  I sort of ad-libbed this recipe, but I will make it deliberately again–we liked it so much.  The dumplings in this soup were an effort to reproduce Latvian dumplings that my husband remembers, but wasn’t sure how to make.

LYNETTE’S CHICKEN DUMPLING SOUP.

Chicken broth made in pressure cooker per above recipe
pureed butternut squash and potatoes left over from above recipe
1 large leek, sliced in rounds,
2 stalks celery , coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic , finely minced
2 peeled carrots, coarsely chopped
1/4-1/2 head cabbage, sliced
2 Tbsp. chicken fat (skimmed and refrigerated from broth) or olive oil
Salt and pepper
Chicken pieces from above recipe
Minced parsley

Dumplings
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 Tbsp water

Heat chicken fat in large soup pot.  Sweat leeks, celery, carrots, garlic until soft and fragrant.  Add broth and simmer for 1 hour.  add cabbage and squash-potato puree and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add chicken pieces.  Bring to a boil.  Mix dumpling ingredients and add water or flour to make a stiff, but not dry dough.  Drop by 1/2 teaspoonfuls into bubbling soup.  Cook for 10 minutes.   Ladle into bowls and sprinkle parsley over.  Serve.  This is totally worth the time and trouble!

 

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