For the Chinese, February 14 will begin the Year of the Tiger. For MAC users, it's the Year of the Snow Leopard. For me, it's the Year of the Pressure Cooker.
Just when I was about to give up hope that American cooks would ever give up their paranoia about the dangers of pressure cooking, some very good things began to happen.
Carolyn Russock pressure-cooked her way through the 20th anniversary edition of Cooking Under Pressure and wrote rave reviews of the 30-minute chicken broth and French-style beef stew, the 4-minute risotto, and the ultra-fast baked beans in a 5-day series for the very popular foodie blog, Serious Eats. Dozens of comments document the growing number of the people who are pressure cooking on a daily basis and understand that today's cookers are 100% safe.
The same week, Paula Crossfield wrote an enthusiastic column for popular online blog, Bitten about how she became a pressure cooker convert. Again lots of enthusiastic cooks wrote in to sing their praises of pressure cooking.
An NPR piece on pressure cooking is soon to hit the national airwaves, and a few other major voices are about to get the word out that pressure cooking is not only safe, but terrific for what I call the four P's: planet, palate, person, and purse.
Great for the planet because it's so fuel efficient.
Great for the palate because the pressure-cooker mingles flavors quickly, giving food the soul-satisfying appeal of a long-cooked meal.
Great for the person because even the hurried or impatient cook can prepare healthy food in a flash.
Great for the purse because the pressure cooker is ace at tenderizing tough cuts of meat and cooking whole grains, beans and other inexpensive ingredients in record time.
How does the pressure cooker work its magic? In the vacuum-sealed cooker, water boils at 242 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the standard 212 degrees. At this higher-than-normal boiling point temperature, food cooks in one-third or less the normal time. That's why many Top Chefs are relying on the pressure cooker to help them win.
I'm no Top Chef in any kind of competition, but last Sunday was so cold out that I was tempted to stay in bed and read. Then hunger struck. I didn't want to go out and shop, so I decided to devise a hearty pressure-cooked soup from ingredients in my pantry.
In celebration of the Year of the Pressure Cooker, I put on my chef's jacket and asked The Sweetie to make a video of the process. About 30 minutes later we were eating a mighty fine Curried Split Pea Soup that cost under $8 and made 4 hearty portions.
Take a look at the video and then let me know if you decide to help make 2010 the Year of the Pressure Cooker, all the while eating better, faster, cheaper, and more eco-friendly than you ever have before.
In the first video, I show you how to assemble the ingredients in the pressure cooker and lock on the lid. In the second, I show you how to release the pressure and stir in some last-minute ingredients for a punch for flavor and a fresh finish.