Other bits and pieces

Monday, December 29, 2008

No Pressure

The weekend following Christmas was really great. I was off work for four days, and with Christmas behind me, was able to spend a prodigious amount of quality time screwing up various dishes. Diana gave me a pressure cooker for Christmas. I think this came after a recommendation from Lacy. I'd never even considered cooking with one before. My only experience with one was watching my grandmother cook with it when I was a kid. I just remember it was a funny looking pot that had a wobbly whistly bit on top. I really didn't know people even used them anymore. As it turns out there is a little known fact about pressure cookers: They are the coolest culinary device on Earth! According to the recipe book, this thing can cook pretty much anything from an anchovy to a water buffalo in just under two and half minutes. Don't have three hours to cook that pot roast? No problem, you can do it in 39 minutes. Only a chump waits four minutes for steamed broccoli, you can do it in two. This thing is the microwave oven of the 1930s. Just don't blow it up.

I used to lay pipe as a young man, so I knew a couple of things about pressure. I know, I know. That's not exactly going to get me into MIT to be a professor of...whatever that field would be called, but I knew enough to know that 15 pounds per square inch isn't a ton of pressure, but it's a lot more than I feel naturally comfortable with to have exerting itself against the walls of a quietly steaming silver pot in front of me on my electric range. The instructions say that you should heat it up until it starts spewing a little bit of steam from the steam valve. Then, you're supposed to reduce the heat and maintain a 'steady flow of steam' for the duration of the cooking. There are several warnings and cautions that follow, but not a lot that really defines how much steam we're talking about. After my first attempt at pressure cooking potatoes, I'll just say that I had too much steam—I think. I am not injured, but it scared the shit out of me when I turned the steam valve to 'release' and it was like one of those train engines from the old western movies when they pull into the station. That thing blasted a high-pressure stream of scalding steam at least 14 feet across my kitchen. That was after I turned the pot. At first it was shooting it directly at the back of the stove and all the stuff I had sitting on top. It sounded like the fucking space shuttle taking off. I could only stand there in awe trying to imagine the state of my four poor potatoes inside. They had to be squeezed down to a singularity! I was going to open the lid to find myself starring into an alternate universe created my my black hole spuds that have ripped through the fabric of space-time. But, when the steam finally eased off, and the little indicator went 'click' telling me it was safe to open my pot without having to dial 911—I found the potatoes not only visibly similar in size as before, but pretty well cooked.

Tonight I'm going to use it cook chili. If these are the last notes in this story, you'll know why.

1 comment:

Kerry said...

Well Ray it seems you are behind the times. Derek and I had a pressure cooker when we lived in Tucson, had we known you would be so interesting to watch (or should I say listen to) while you used the pressure cooker we would have introduced you to pressure cooking as an "adult" sooner. There are certain meals that cook really well under pressure, and I have to say chili is one of them. I hope that you figure out what a little steam is... and be very careful venting it!!!

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