Under pressure

Margaret Prouse
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‘225 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes’ good new cookbook

I wanted to review Cinda Chavich’s “225 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes” (Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2013) because I so enjoyed Chavich’s writing — particularly her witty voice, as well as the recipes — in her 2004 offering, “The Girl Can’t Cook.”

“225 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes” has a more neutral tone, the jocular voice that narrated the 2004 book replaced with a matter-of-fact one that is informative, though less entertaining. However, the recipes and the rest of the content are up to par.

Pressure cookers, which were popular years ago, have reappeared, providing a way for 21st century cooks to produce healthy, homey economical meals. When a new — or, in this case, rediscovered — appliance or cooking method surfaces, people like to have targeted cookbooks, with specially-developed recipes. We also need a dedicated cookbook to help people feel comfortable and safe using modern pressure cookers, which, incidentally, have more safety features than the old ones did.

When I started to use this book, I’d had experience using a pressure canner to process low-acid foods for storage. However, my experience with doing any other type of pressure cooking was limited. The introductory chapter had plenty of information about using a pressure cooker, and I referred to it often until I got used to the procedures. I had to learn things like how to release the pressure quickly, as some recipes call for, as that is something that is never recommended when preserving with a pressure canner. However, Chavich points out that the book does not replace the user manual for the cooker, which contains essential instructions for the particular model in use.

There is a listing of cooking times for some basics at the end of the introduction, and recipes are grouped in nine chapters: appetizers; soups; meat; poultry; fish and seafood; vegetables and vegetarian dishes; beans and grains; desserts; and stocks, sauces and condiments. The book is easy to navigate, with a general table of contents as well as a listing of recipes at the beginning of each chapter and a good index.

Anyone familiar with recent Robert Rose cookbooks will recognize the easy-to-follow page format: recipe to the right, with measurements in imperial and metric; sidebar to the left, in a smaller font, with number of servings and notes recipe notes and sometimes a tip or two.

Chavich includes the bean and stew recipes I expected to find in a book about pressure cookers, as well as a wide selection of recipes for Thai, Indian, Italian and Ethiopian-style food, vegetarian dishes, desserts, jams and chutneys. The 32 colour images show finished products that tempt the reader to try them out.

All the dishes I tried have worked well and tasted good, and I am eager to try more. I can see applications throughout the year. The comfort food recipes for dishes such as stews and soups are perfect for these cold winter days. In the heat of summer, I’ll be taking advantage of the short cooking times to prepare meals without overheating the kitchen.

The following recipe fits well into winter or summer menus.

Whole “Roasted” Chicken with Lemon, Garlic and Herbs

From Chavich, Cinda: “225 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes,” Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2013.

4 cloves garlic, minced

15 mL (1 tbsp) chopped fresh thyme

15 mL (1 tbsp) chopped fresh rosemary

1 chicken, about 1.5 kg (3 lbs) or a size that will fit comfortably into

your pressure cooker

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

30 mL (2 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil

500 mL (2 cups) chicken stock

Freshly ground black pepper

30 mL (2 tbsp) cornstarch, dissolved in 15 mL (1 tbsp) water

In a small bowl, combine garlic, thyme and rosemary; rub half of the mixture inside chicken. Rub the inside with 15 mL (1 tbsp) of the lemon juice and 5 mL (1 tsp) of the lemon zest.

In the pressure cooker, heat oil over high heat. Add chicken and brown on all sides. Pour in stock and remaining lemon juice; sprinkle with remaining garlic mixture.

Lock the lid in place and bring the cooker up to full pressure over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, just to maintain even pressure, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and release pressure quickly.

Chicken should be tender with an internal temperature of 75 C (170 F). If not, return cooker to full pressure and cook for 5 minutes or longer, depending on doneness. Remove from heat and release pressure quickly.*

Transfer chicken to a carving board and tent with foil to keep warm. Pour cooking juices into a glass measuring cup; skim off any fat. Return liquid to cooker and bring to a boil. Whisk in cornstarch mixture and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes or until gravy is thickened. Season to taste with pepper and stir in remaining 5 mL (1 tsp) lemon zest. Carve chicken from the bone (remove skin if desired) and serve with gravy. Serves 4.

* You can crisp the skin by putting it into a hot (220 C/450 F) oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or simply remove the skin for serving.

Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at margaret@islandgusto.com.

Organizations: Robert Rose

Geographic location: Toronto, North Wiltshire

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Recent comments

  • ePressureCooker
    January 29, 2014 - 16:10

    People not only "like to have targeted cookbooks, with specially-developed recipes" but with inexperienced pressure cooker users, its a necessity. Not just in terms of selecting the proper length of time to cook under pressure, but there are other variables that will need to be adjusted, in some cases cooking technique, order in which vegetables are added (or the size they are cut to), the amount of liquid, the amount of alcohol, the order in which they are added to the pot (that can make a difference too, since there is next to no agitation of the food while under pressure). Once people get used to and comfortable with their pressure cooker, and learn what needs to be adjusted, then they can adapt Grandma's world famous stew recipe.

  • adel
    January 29, 2014 - 11:19

    Though I appreciate the variety of recipes in Cinda's none seem like something I haven't cooked before. I have been pressure cooking whole chickens since 2010 - thanks to the instructions I found on the hip pressure cooker website. At least on that website, I haven't found that personality needs to be sacrificed for recipes.