Monday, March 30, 2009

Cooking at the Speed of Steam

pressurecooker, originally uploaded by camille94019.
I was shopping with my father and I had had a half-assed notion to buy a pressure cooker for a long time. Since it was my birthday and my entire family was at our collective favorite kitchen supply store, I knew he was looking for something to get me. So I mentioned it to him, and before I knew it, the manager was explaining the various models and taking them out to show us. I still had no idea what I was looking at. My mother nixxed the aluminum model (possible alzheimers danger), so we settled on a tiny, expensive stainless steel one. The manager was reluctant to sell it to us, since all the directions were in Korean. I was confident with a little google, and some ingenuity, we'd figure it out in no time. Furthermore, most appliances come with diagrams, and I blythly imagined Arabic numerals are readable in any language.
Korean Panic
This is the cover of the instruction booklet.  The inside is full of more Korean text and hardly any pictures.  It mentioned a website but when we visited it, it was also entirely in Korean.   Then we went online and found the encyclopedic Miss Vickie website of all things pressure.   Her information was very helpful, but every other sentence said something like "refer to manufacturer's instructions."  All the other google hits referred back to her site.  I got as far as converting the metric to the american, only to find out that all the recipes in the world were written for 15 psi cookers, and my cooker only spoke 13 psi.  At this point I was feeling really stupid.  Miss Vickie wrote of the non-standard psi cookers in withering terms (why buy a cooker that doesn't actually reduce your cooking time!?!).  I had already ripped the packaging apart, so there was no returning it.

I realized that my cooker was an old-style one, with the jiggle top.  It appeared the modern ones had some other kind of pressure regulating system.

Rice Paddle of Hope

I read Miss Vickie's rice recipe.  It involved nesting a stainless steel bowl in the cooker.  Of course, I don't own something like that.  I was feeling even more ridiculous.  What if I couldn't even cook rice in it?  Then I noticed the manufacturer had included a complimentary rice paddle (in addition to a free scrubber).   I read the directions very carefully.  I tried boiling water.  The jiggle top did its little dance, the quick release valve worked.  I didn't send myself to the emergency room (my father tells a story about how his mother opened hers up too soon and gave herself such bad burns that she had to go to the emergency room).  Then I tried steaming beets.  They came out just fine, and it only took five minutes.  I was feeling more confident.  It was time for rice.  Cooking rice is an art in itself.  My mother taught me never to remove the lid until it was done.  I have Asian friends who rate Chinese restaurants solely on the quality of their steamed rice.  Surely the Korean engineers who made my cooker had rice in mind.  Surely that rice paddle was a Sign.  The worse thing that could happen was it would get baked on the bottom.  I used Miss Vickie's times and proportions.  18 minutes later I was running cold water over my whistling hot cooker.  Besides being a bit on the wet side (less water next time, grasshopper) the brown rice was cooked.  Normally, it takes 45 minutes.

In addition to the burn story, my father mentioned that my grandmother used to use her cooker to make stews.  Coincidentally, Miss Vickie has about a hundred soup recipes on her site.  She also mentions that any crock pot recipe can be done in a pressure cooker in a fraction of the time.

All right, Igor, its time to get back into the kitchen...


M. L. Benedict said...

What a great post. My only bad pressure cooker incident involved forgetting the beans while practicing (so I didn't hear the very loud jiggle). When I remembered, the safety thing had blown out and most of the beans had blown through onto the wall and ceiling. I still use a pressure cooker, but I do not practice piano while it's going any more.

H said...

Rest assure, there is little danger of getting Alzheimer's from aluminum. It seems to be more genetically linked than anything... I'm jealous that you have a stove.

Camille said...

Great! My maternal maternal great grandmother used aluminum AND had Alzheimer's. I am doubly damned.

Miss Vickie sez that aluminum is fine, too, but beware the teflon. Danger lurks everywhere.

H said...

Teflon! OH CRAP! I'm sure they'll say coffee, alcohol causes it as well... we are so screwed. My granny had Alzheimer's and followed that "Diet for a Planet" stuff in the 70's-- no sugar, no corn syrup, homegrown veggies, wheat germ all the way. When she had cancer she even opted for the "organic" way, obstaining from the cancer drugs and radiation. I really don't think the researchers know anything.

The Nikkster said...

I'm still laughing at what M.L. Benedict said... too funny! It reminds me of an episode of pressure cooking in tiny Beijing apartment kitchens when the beans exploded. Thankfully not in my wee kitchen. I think they were trying to repicate my 6-hour chili.

In my house, we used the pressure cooker for artichokes and turkey giblets.

The Nikkster said...

repicate? Sorry, replicate my 6-hour chili.

rosa said...

I aspire to a pressure-cooker someday. But my brown rice in a pot (after 2 cups of water has boiled and 1 cup of rice is thrown in and it is brought back to a boil) takes 22 minutes to cook. I guess the p-cooker is quicker, but it never seems like a big deal.
And I love the cover of the manual! Enlarged, it would make great kitch-en art.

Camille said...

Just think what you could do with those saved two minutes! Conquer the world! Clean the bathroom! Balance your checkbook!

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