Chicken under Pressure

Some time ago a reader mentioned they were looking forward to new recipes inspired by our time in Romania.  I have no new flavor combinations to offer or undiscovered vegetables to introduce today, but I do have my new favorite method. Pressure cookers aren’t common North American kitchens, but as a non-electric, efficient, flavor-preserver appliance, they are found in many traditional kitchens across the globe.  Because they can quickly cook legumes, they are particularly popular in India, where the vegetarian diet is replete with mung beans, lentils and the like.  I had more on the topic to share, but Miss Vickie has already said it all, whoever Miss Vickie is:

Throughout much of the world where the expense of cooking fuel and energy is a carefully budgeted resource, the pressure cooker is the single most important piece of equipment in the kitchen. In countries where long-simmered dishes predominate, pressure cookers are a necessity. While most American cooks are still wondering why anyone would use a one, the rest of the world can’t imagine how people function without a pressure cooker. It’s true, the worldwide use of pressure cookers is on the rise, and cooks from Australia to Zambia are secretly laughing and enjoying all the benefits while most of us born and raised in the United States are stuck in the past with classic tales that date back to the post WWII era, and the memorable day that grandma’s pressure cooker redecorated the kitchen in a geyser of split pea soup.”

In the U.S. I frequently used my pressure cooker for beans.   The cooker was one of few kitchen items I brought overseas (that, along with my stove top espresso makers, of course).  I resolved to expand my repertoire to include meat.  An oven-roasted chicken takes too long and isn’t energy efficient, particularly in the summer, when turning on the oven kicks in the A/C.  While a U.S. broiler chicken won’t fit in my medium-sized pressure cooker, the small, local griller chickens fit perfectly.  Additionally, I like the smaller cluckers because I know it didn’t grow too big for its britches (or legs) and it’s arguably more flavorful.

Here are my pressure cooker chicken step-by-step instructions.  Start to finish, a whole, cooked, succulent, juicy chicken in 30 minutes.  (That’s faster than driving roundtrip to the supermarket to pick up a rotisserie and five other items you don’t actually need, stand in line to pay, wait at the parking lot crosswalk for all the cars who don’t stop for pedestrians, etc).  Rinse chicken.  Pat dry.  Brown in pressure cooker with a little bit of oil, turning until the skin is at least tinged on each side (or skip this step entirely).  Add a cup of water.  Secure lid.  When rocker starts rocking, cook for 10-15 minutes (depending on weight, reference the manual).  Any questions?  My only pressure cooker guidance comes from the handy booklet that came with my simple Presto pressure cooker, and it’s more than sufficient to keep me experimenting for months.

A pressure cooker is based on science, but it’s not rocket science.  Want to know more?  Wikipedia, my friends.

In my dreams I have a professional videography team that films me, my husband and the children traveling and cooking dishes in our kitchens around the world.  For now, this video composed on our ten-year-old laptop (audio glitches and prolific user errors) with my greasy hands holding my camera while cooking will have to suffice.  You get the idea.

2 responses to “Chicken under Pressure”

  1. Several people commented on my personal facebook page that they love their pressure cookers and use them for all kinds of things. They recommended the America’s Test Kitchen Pressure cooker book and Miss Vickie’s book (the lady I mentioned in the blog). I could say I like it because it cooks fast on the stove, thus saving a lot of energy (in contrast to a slow cooker you plug in for hours), but I have to say it really does great on the flavor, packing it in with the pressure. Let me know if you get one!

  2. Your blogs are always interesting! I am one of those you speak of that have never used a pressure cooker all 41 years of marriage. I may have to get me one now. Good job, Heidi!

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