Happy Birthday to Me

I’ve  been toying with the idea of getting a pressure cooker for a little while now.  I was always terrified of this seemingly old-fashioned appliance.  It was almost certain that I would blow it up and be cleaning the kitchen for days afterward.  Good Housekeeping recently (September 2015) ran an article with “how to” recipes (roast, slow cook, etc.). They published 2 recipes for the pressure cooker and gave their best pick appliance recommendations, emphasizing how efficient pressure cookers are and how  much time and energy they save. Since I had torn out the page for the roast chicken recipe on the back, I went searching for the original article.  I came across their online reviews of different models and brands.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/appliances/pressure-cooker-reviews/g2036/best-stovetop-and-electric-pressure-cookers/

I was hooked!  How much time could a pressure cooker save me?  Stew in 30-70 minutes? Our favorite beef stew takes almost 4 hours, and it is high maintenance. Pork roast in 20 minutes? Sign me up.

I had birthday money to spend, and I was also hoarding a couple of Williams-Sonoma gift cards that needed a good purpose.  I found GH‘s top pick online (Fagor Innova stovetop 6-quart), and happened to hit on a 20% off one item and free shipping, no restrictions.  It was also just a couple of days before Christmas, so the thought of avoiding the mall and taking advantage of the pre-holiday shipping push was quite tempting.  SOLD!

My confirmation email said that my estimated delivery was December 25.  Well, I didn’t believe that for a second, but hoped my new toy would arrive the day after.  Long story short, there was no urgency on Williams-Sonoma’s part and my pressure cooker didn’t arrive until December 30.  Fine, whatever.  I was a little on the busy side anyhow, and didn’t even take it out of the box until 3 days later.

My first attempt with Pressie was to make some Asian BBQ chicken thighs for client.  I browned the thighs, added the sauce, locked the top, and waited.  Thin wisps of steam started to come out of the valve, so I set the timer and turned down the heat.  After 6 minutes, I turned the valve to release the steam.  Nothing happened.  I was expecting some dramatic Navy ship whoosh, but, nope.

So I finished the thighs by reducing the sauce, stuck my thermometer in to check the temp, aaaaaaaaaaaaaand, done.  Temp was right on, but I don’t think it worked the way it was supposed to work (and yes, I read the manual).

On to GH’s lentil chili, the recipe that led me to Pressie’s eventual purchase.

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food-recipes/a34131/chipotle-lentil-chili/

LEVEL: Easy
SERVES: 6

Ingredients

2 chipotles in adobo
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes
1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tbsp. oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 tbsp. chili powder
4 c. lower-sodium broth
2 c. brown lentils
1/2 tsp. salt
Avocado, for serving
Cheddar, shredded, for serving
Cilantro, for serving
Tortilla Chips, for serving

Directions

In food processor, puree chipotles, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes; pulse in whole peeled tomatoes until chopped. In pressure cooker in oil on medium, cook onion, green pepper, and chili powder. Add tomato mixture, broth, brown lentils, and salt. Lock lid; cook under high pressure 12 minutes. Release pressure. Serve with avocado, cheddar, cilantro, tortilla chips.


ABOUT 310 CALS, 19 G PROTEIN, 52 G CARBS, 4 G FAT, 18 G FIBER, 870 MG SODIUM

So the day I decided to make this chili, I was out running errands and happened to have walked out of the house without my phone.  I had planned to look up the recipe to make sure I had all the ingredients, but realized once at the grocery store that I couldn’t.  So I didn’t have any sun-dried tomatoes on hand, but I had recently roasted some tomatoes, orange peppers, and artichokes in olive oil.  I chopped that up in the food processor with the garlic and chipotles.  I used orange pepper instead of green and diced tomatoes instead of whole (and I didn’t put them in the processor, I threw them in as is).  I also used up about 3/4 of a cup of mushrooms that were leftover from our New Year’s Eve stuffed mushroom recipe. (put them in the pot with the peppers in step 1.  I had 2 open bags of lentils in the pantry–just red, and mixed green, red, and black.  Both open bags equaled 2 cups, and I love to get stuff used up, so in they went.
I locked the lid and waited.  When steam started to come out, I set the timer.  After 12 minutes, my lentils were still on the crunchy side and the broth hadn’t absorbed.  I read the troubleshooting section of the manual, and realized I wasn’t creating enough pressure to get the pressure indicator to stay up (meaning my liquids weren’t creating enough steam for a long enough time before I was setting my timer).  I got it boiling again, and this time, the indicator popped up and stayed up.

When I released the valve after another 10 minutes, I got my Navy ship whoosh.  It whooshed while I washed some dishes and kept whooshing while I took the recycling out to the bin.  It was very dramatic and exciting! Just what I was waiting for.

20160103_144814-1

Verdict: As for the chili, I think the lentils ended up overcooked because of my false start.  But the chipotles were tangy and spicy and the overall texture was what I consider a good chili consistency– thick and not too much liquid.  I will definitely make this one again when I have the right ingredients on hand– and now that Pressie and I understand each other.

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