Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cooking Under Pressure

No, I'm not a contestant on a cooking based reality show. But I was using my pressure cooker to help me make dinner last night and I started thinking about this kitchen gadget. Yes, to me it is a gadget, simply a time-saving gadget. I bought this electronic gizmo almost a year ago and have used it a handful of times. Because I don't use it that often, each time I have to relearn how to use it and a couple of times I started out incorrectly so it ended up being more of a hassle than a help. No saving time on those nights. Last night I got it right though (finally!). Which was good because using it was just the first step in the Easy Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas recipe I was making. Easy it was, after having all the ingredients assembled. I hate those recipes that say prep time is 10 minutes but call for cooked chicken. Unless you have leftover cooked chicken on hand, prep time is NOT 10 minutes. This is where my pressure cooker comes in handy. You can put frozen chicken in and about 15 minutes later, you have cooked chicken, ready to shred. And depending on the liquid that you add in with it, you could have flavored, cooked chicken, ready to shred.

Of course, I don't like chicken cooked this way normally, but if I need it for a recipe like Easy Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas the cleanup is a whole lot easier than sauteing chicken on the stove. When you cook chicken in the pressure cooker, it comes out similar to poached chicken and poaching is a cooking method that I have never been crazy about. I don't go in for poached eggs despite the whole cache of Eggs Benedict. When I was in culinary school, we of course had to learn poaching. Poaching is not boiling! While I am not crazy about poaching, boiling would be much worse. The trick with poaching is keeping the poaching liquid at 170F. One thing that I thought poached very well was salmon and I have in fact made a poached salmon that was superbly flavored, all due to the poaching liquid. This is a recipe I made only once, years ago, and I still remember that meal. That's a good recipe. But I digress, back to pressure cooking.

My Grandmother used her old fashioned, stove-top pressure cooker all the time to make simple things like potatoes or carrots. To her, it was just like any other pot, it just had that wobbly thing on top. I've always been scared of those kind of pressure cookers. Maybe from the horror stories I've heard of how you have to be careful or you'll get a horrible steam burn. The new, electronic ones are made with all sorts of safety features so you can't get hurt - if it's under pressure, you can't open the lid, etc.

When I'm not using my pressure cooker to cook up chicken to shred for a casserole or tacos, I'm using it as a super fast crock pot. I love my crock pot and use it more than the pressure cooker, but if it's 4:30 in the afternoon and you want to eat the same day, you have to go for the pressure cooker. Just throw everything in, still frozen even, turn the lid on, and in about 15 - 20 minutes you have dinner. And like the crock pot, once it's going you can do other stuff. Of course, make sure it is going before walking away and coming back 15 minutes later to find you didn't have it set up correctly and you are still at square one (this has happened to me more than once).

I bought my pressure cooker on impulse, it wasn't a thought out or researched purchase. But it has broadened my cooking options. And I have a cookbook that has bread machine, crock pot, pressure cooker, and clay pot recipes in it. Hmmm, maybe I need a clay pot. Any opinions on clay pot cooking out there, please let me know what you think of that cooking method.

Here are two very different but both tasty recipes from my collection.

Easy Chicken & Cheese Enchiladas (cut from the newspaper)
Prep: 10 minutes Bake 40 minutes Makes 6 servings

1 can (10 3/4 oz) Condensed cream of chicken soup (I use Campbell's 98% Fat Free)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup salsa
2 tsp. chili powder
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
6 - 6" flour tortillas
1 small tomato chopped
1 green onion sliced

1. Stir the soup, sour cream, salsa, and chili powder in a medium bowl.

2. Stir one cup of the soup mixture above, the chicken, and cheese in a large bowl.

3. Divide the chicken mixture among the tortillas. Roll the tortillas and place them seam side up in a shallow baking dish. Pour the remaining soup mixture over the filled tortillas.

4. Cover and bake at 350F for 40 minutes or until the enchiladas are hot and bubbling. Top with the tomato and onion.

I increased almost all the ingredients and also added a can of corn and a can of pinto beans to the chicken mixture. I ended up with 12 tortillas which was plenty for a couple of meals for two people plus some leftovers for lunch.

Salmon a la Michael (from MasterCook cooking software package)
Serves 4

4 - 8 oz fresh salmon fillets
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 bunch parsley sprigs
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 oranges, quartered
1 whole lemon, quartered
1 whole lime, quartered
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 gallons water
12 egg yolks
1 pound clarified butter, at 120 degrees
1 pinch salt, to taste
1/8 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons orange zest

1. Prepare the Citrus Court Stock --

In a large pot, lightly saute onion, carrot, and celery. Add water, bay leaf, parsley, oranges, lemon, and lime. Bring to a boil, simmer for 25 minutes and strain. Put strained stock in pan large enough to hold salmon fillets. Keep liquid simmering.

2. Prepare the Orange Hollandaise --

Whip the egg yolks with orange juice until light and frothy.
The butter must be clarified and at 120 degrees for the next step.
Slowly add butter while constantly whipping the egg mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

(Note: I've always made Hollandaise over a hot water bath so if you are comfortable making Hollandaise I would use whatever method you are familiar with.)

3. Poaching the Salmon --

Place the 4 salmon fillets in the simmering Citrus Court Stock. Salmon must be poached for 8 - 10 minutes. Remove from the stock and coat with the Orange Hollandaise.

Garnish with orange zest and serve.

I don't think I made Hollandaise sauce when I made this salmon. It's not a particularly favorite sauce of mine (another reason for not being so thrilled with Eggs Benedict.) I don't remember how I served it, just that the flavor of the salmon from being poached in the citrus stock was fabulous. And to be honest, a Hollandaise sauce would complement that very well, but I don't care for it well enough to make it.


Alyson (New England Living) said...

I don't have a pressure cooker, but have always been interested. I'm not much of a cook though. Interesting that you went to culinary school!

My husband is deathly allergic to chicken, so maybe I'll have to try the fish!

Cindy said...

Alyson - Yes culinary school, that was an interesting time in my life.
Allergic to chicken - that's terrible. I'm going to be terribly rude to ask this but is he allergic to eggs too. I don't know anyone allergic to chicken and I am just being curious.
But, thinking about the enchilada recipe, it would be great made with shredded beef as well.

The Veggie Queen said...

Wondering what kind of pressure cooker you have? Stove top? Electric? Brand, size?

I teach pressure cooking to students -- culinary and others, with great success.

I don't eat chicken but my son does and I have made great chicken for enchiladas in the PC. Wonderful tool to have and use.

My website and blog have more info.

Thanks for sharing.

Cindy said...

Hi Veggie Queen - Thanks for stopping by. I have a Cook's Essential (From QVC) electric PC. I'm not sure of the size though, not too big but not too small either.
I checked out your website and blog and they have lots of good info. I'd love some of those recipes you talk about on your blog. I'm going to try and use my PC more, it's so easy.

Bee said...

Confession: I've never used a pressure cooker. This is possibly due to a very funny (but scary) chapter on pressure cooking from a favorite book of mine: The Egg and I. I'm not an egg-poacher, either.

Your recipes sound great, though. I always like some dinner inspiration!

Cindy said...

Bee ~ I've only ever used the newer electric kind, with all the safety features. I'm always looking for new recipes. I get bored with food made the same way all the time. I hope I gave you some new ideas.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

He is allergic to eggs, but only if it's just eggs. If the eggs are mixed into something else, like a batter, than it's fine. Something about changing the protein structure.

Cindy said...

Alyson - That's funny because after I wrote my comment I was thinking about the proteins and wondering if that was it. I'm glad he can eat things made from batter, etc.