Monday, March 3, 2014

Pressure Cooker - Friend or Foe?

Never thought I would cook pasta in a pressure cooker, until I stumbled onto this recipe. I just got home at 3:30 am from a marathon delayed flight from Aruba and wanted to have a nice home cooked Sunday meal. I really wasn't in the mood for something that took too much time.  This was the perfect recipe. But before I go into that, let me allay your fears of pressure cookers.

I grew up being totally petrified of pressure cookers (thanks Mom). My Mom had one of those old ones where the little ever-threatening thing on top jiggled back and forth-taunting me with every jiggle. That thing could blow at any time.  If she was cooking in that beast, we stayed clear of the kitchen. This is yet another of the fears that she instilled into us as kids. (Since this was a sibling/Mom vacation we also discovered other foibles that she instilled in us - fear of hotel carpets, bedspreads etc and having basically a comment about everything. A few Christmases ago we discovered that all three of us were totally grossed out by feet-live and learn).

So I was always afraid of these monsters of destruction called pressure cookers. But try as hard as I could, I could never make a beef stew as good as the one my mother made in the pressure cooker.  It never had the same taste. I thought that perhaps it was this beast that made the difference in taste and I would have to try to overcome my fears. I started to read up on the modern beast and it was quite a different animal.  The new modern beasts had more safety features and didn't seem to threatened to end my life with a bunch of stew exploding into my face. I hesitantly bought the Fagor 2 by 1. It's a pretty good deal - since you get an 8qt size to make a huge pot of stew and then a 4 qt to make smaller stuff such as kick ass risotto (no arm-tiring stirring required). I have to say the first time I used it, I was a little scared (and I actually read the directions cover to cover). But once you taste the food that comes out of it, you are convinced that you cannot live without this thing. I mean really pasta dinner in 3 minutes! Beef stew in 20 minutes-whose meat is tender with vege that still has some texture and taste left in it.

OK - I'm off my soapbox now about pressure cookers and will talk about this pasta recipe.  I used the smaller 4qt size for this recipe. I'm sure this would work with a variety of pasta - I didn't use the fusilli as suggested (see I don't follow the directions). I also used diced tomatoes instead of puree. Next time I think I might try adding a little red wine instead of the water.
It was a great warming comfort food sort of meal - totally needed that to adapt to this crap cold weather here after the 88 degrees in Aruba. And by the way Mom's pressure cooker never exploded but I do recall hearing about a neighbor's whose did.

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