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About the Author
Cinda Chavich is a food writer and editor whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout North America. She is the author of the Wild West Cookbook.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
When it comes to naming the kitchen tool of the millennium, my vote goes to the new generation of safe and foolproof pressure cookers.
I am a kitchen gadget junkie, but few of my new acquisitions frilly deliver on their promises, and many are relegated to the culinary scrapheap. So when the best kitchen stores began carrying a reportedly foolproof new generation of the old 1950s wonder the pressure cooker, I was skeptical. I'd heard the horror stories -- erupting pots of pea soup and rocketing valves. Who needs to risk life and limb to cook dinner?
But professional curiosity got the better of me. The new pressure cookers are lovely, sleek and shiny stainless steel pots with heavy bottoms and loads of safety devices. Gone is the hissing pressure regulator, bouncing precariously on a jet of steam. In its place, most modern machines have a new regulator and quick release valve that lets you release the steam instantly, without hauling the hot and heavy monster over to the cold-water tap to cool it down. They have more backup safety mechanisms, so you can't build pressure if the lid isn't properly affixed, or inadvertently clog the main pressure vent and end up with lima beans all over the ceiling.
There really is nothing to fear from this new generation of safe pressure cookers. But that wasn't what hooked me. It was the food. Hands-free risotto, cooked to creamy perfection in six minutes. The house filled with the heady aromas of tender beef and red wine stew in half an hour. Almost instant homemade stocks and broths, with all of the infused flavor you'd expect from hours of slow cooking.
Suddenly, I could make healthy meals reminiscent of my grandmother's kitchen in less time than I could sauté a chicken breast.
This is what really makes the pressure cooker indispensable. It's not for all kinds of cooking, but it's a tool that can save you time and energy without compromising quality.
We are eating more beans and whole grains -- ethnic dishes like Indian curries and Mexican black bean soup on Wednesdays or daube of lamb with niçoise olives and succulent short ribs for dinner parties. This kind of old-fashioned peasant food is back in style, and that's where the pressure cooker shines. So think about savory stew, coq au vin, or rogan josh tonight. Have a healthy grain pilaf with your grilled fish, or simmer a big pot of bean soup for lunch in less than 15 minutes.
Screw up your courage and crank up your pressure cooker. Once you've served a perfect pot roast after work, you'll be hooked. And you'll never get tired of your new toy. In fact, you won't know what you did without it.