It’s a vivid memory from childhood. A heavy gray pot with a funny spout on the lid always sat on the stove—until the day it exploded, sending the lid flying with such force it dented the wall and splattered the contents on the ceiling, walls, and floor. The stove’s backsplash looked like a particularly unappealing piece of modern art, rendered in strands of beef, daubs of potatoes, and rivulets of gravy.
The pot landed in the trash and, perhaps needless to say, I’ve never been inclined to explore pressure cooking since. I’m not alone. It seems many people shy away from the technique for fear of explosions and other mishaps. And while those fears may have been reasonable years ago, these days pressure cooker phobia is not so rational. Not only have pressure cookers evolved and are no longer hazardous, but there’s much about pressure cooking to recommend.
As Richard Ehrlich explains in his new book, 80 Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, it’s fast, super nutritious and, because food cooks faster, energy saving. The only food not well suited for pressure cooking, he says, is fish. Otherwise, anything you can cook by other means you can make faster and better in a pressure cooker—faster because the trapped steam raises the cooking temperature and better because your food retains not only more vitamins and minerals but also color and aroma.
Erlich tells you everything you need to know to get started with this healthful cooking technique and provides recipes such as these to get you started.
Asian-Flavored Meat Loaf
Very tasty stuff. Add another chile pepper if you really crave the burn.
1 small onion (about 2 oz), finely chopped
2 thin slices fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red chile pepper, seeded if you wish, finely chopped
1 plump garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Small handful cooked rice or fresh breadcrumbs
Small handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 lb lean ground pork, beef, or lamb (or a combination)
Put the onion, ginger, chile pepper, and garlic in a small pan, or microwave-suitable bowl, with the vegetable oil. Heat the pan gently on the stove top, or put the bowl in the microwave for a few minutes, just to soften everything lightly. Add the fish sauce, vinegar, and soy sauce, and leave to cool.
Heat up at least 2 inches of water in your pressure cooker with the steamer insert (or an improvised steamer rack) in place. Mix all the ingredients in a medium heatproof dish that will fit into your steamer with at least 1 inch of space between the dish and the side of the pan. Pack down firmly and place in the pressure cooker. Clamp on the lid. Bring up to full pressure, turn the heat down to medium, and cook for 15 minutes. Leave to vent gradually. (You can brown the top of the loaf quickly under a hot broiler, if you like.)
TD&N Nutrient Analysis: Calories: 360; Total Fat: 28 g; Saturated Fat: 9 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 4 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 12 g; Cholesterol: 82 mg; Sodium: 554 mg; Carbohydrates: 7 g; Fiber: 1 g; Protein: 20 g