Cooking under pressure

Pressure cooker helps you get dinner on the table

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Mama had a stovetop Presto pressure cooker that she pulled out of the kitchen cabinet from time to time to cook food in a hurry.

She’d sit it on the back burner to cook a pot of collards or maybe pork backbone to serve alongside turnips or rutabagas.

While the food cooked, the pressure cooker put on a little show, right there on the stovetop.

I tried to stay clear of the kitchen while the pressure cooker whistled, spewed steam, and rocked and bounced until the food was ready.

If you got too close, that thing would spit on you. I admit: It scared me!

I swore I would never cook with a pressure cooker. Never.

Times change, and I’m no longer a little girl scared of a pot that makes a big fuss. And while I would probably still not like cooking with my mama’s pressure cooker, I did enjoy cooking with a new-fangled electric pressure cooker sent to me by Black & Decker last week.

Over the last few years, electric pressure cookers have become popular with those of us who like to cook when we get home from work. The pressure cooker makes it possible to quickly prepare recipes that could otherwise take hours to simmer on the stove or roast in the oven.

All kinds of features have been added as well. For instance, the 6-quart model I tried has a function that allows you to brown the meat in the same pot you will cook in. It also has settings for white and brown rice as well as beans, meats, soups and stews.

And in addition to using it as a pressure cooker, you can also use it as a slow cooker.

Before I gave my pressure cooker a spin, I carefully read the instruction manual that came with it as well as the recipe booklet and learned about safeguards that were in place to make this cooking endeavor easy and safe.

I was a little intimidated, but I followed the directions, step by step, for my first attempt — brown sugar cinnamon steel cut oats. I only had trouble with one thing: getting the lid on the pressure cooker! I think I try too hard. But other than that, it was a breeze. I stayed in the kitchen and watched the little red lights scroll up and down on the control panel as the pressure built, and followed the countdown timer.

It took 15 minutes for the oats to cook, followed by another 10 minutes for the pressure to release.

When I make steel cut oats for breakfast in the past, I used the slow cooker and let them cook overnight. I absolutely prefer the pressure cooker method.

The oats were perfectly cooked. The little pearls were still intact and were delicious served with pecans and fresh blueberries.

For an encore, I cooked Swiss steak in the pressure cooker Monday night, adapting a favorite slow cooker recipe. I read in the manual that slow cooker recipes work well on the pressure cooker mode, so I gave it a try.

I used the browning feature to brown pieces of round steak that I had dredged in seasoned flour, then I added the remaining ingredients into the pressure cooker bowl. I had to look at similar recipes in the recipe booklet to decide how long to cook the dish. I chose 30 minutes.

We were very happy with the results. The gravy was especially creamy and delicious, and the steak was tender. It wasn’t fall-apart tender, but it was tender and good. The next time I make this, I will probably cook it for 35 minutes. But that beats the eight hours it take to cook this recipe on low in a slow cooker!

Hint, hint: If you’re still looking for a Mother’s Day gift idea for this weekend, this could be a good option if your mom/ wife enjoys cooking and trying out new “toys.”

lisa@wilsontimes.com | 265-7810

* The pressure cooker used for this column is a 6-quart pressure cooker made by Black and Decker.

Swiss Steak

12 to 34 cup flour

14 teaspoon salt

Black pepper, to taste

112 to 212 pounds boneless round steak

1 to 2 tablespoons butter

1 1034-ounce can cream of mushroom soup (I use low-fat, low sodium)

112 cups beef broth (I use low-fat, low sodium)

12 cup chopped onion

Mix flour, salt and pepper on a dinner plate. Cut steak into serving size pieces and dredge in flour mixture.

In skillet or in bowl of pressure cooker set to brown, place pieces of steak and brown on each side. Do not overlap as you brown the steak.

Add all ingredients to bowl of pressure cooker (or into slow cooker). Follow manufacturer’s instructors for pressure cooker. I cooked on the meat setting for 30 minutes but will cook for 35 minutes the next time. In slow cooker, cook on low for 8 to 9 hours or until meat is tender.