Friday, January 14, 2011

The Pressure's On! (In a good way)

In December I was contacted by CSN Stores asking if I would like to review one of their products again. I'd had my eye on something I really wanted, so I jumped at the chance. I believe many of you will be very interested in this product and find it to be a very useful addition to your kitchen. As always, CSN provided the product, but that did not affect my review in any way. In short though…

I love my new pressure cooker!

Isn't she a beauty?

The best part is that this came as a set and included everything I need to get started canning, except the jars. This next photo is from their website…

The Duo Series by Fagor is the #1 Recommended Pressure Cooker Model
as Rated by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine!

She came with:

  • 10-Quart Duo Pressure Cooker
  • Canning rack - accommodates up to 4 quart or 4 pint-size jars
  • Jar wrench
  • Stainless steel wide mouth funnel
  • Magnetic lid lifter
  • Stainless steel ladle
  • Bubble freer
  • Full-color home canning cookbook
  • Pressure cooking recipe book
  • Demonstration DVD

This was what I was most interested in. I love the idea of canning, but I don't have the desire or the space to put up 40 quarts of tomatoes or 50 pints of strawberry jam. I don't live on a farm, but I love going to farmer's markets and buying local produce. Last year when Silver Queen corn was in season I bought quite a bit, cooked it and froze some. Since my huge 20 yo side-by-side finally died, I don't have the freezer room I used to, so canning will be a great way for me to extend the growing season. Plus, I LOVE homemade pickles. I raid my cousin's pantry every time I visit the family farm in South Georgia. Well, it's high time I start making my own and this canner will let me do that without having to rent storage space. What I liked about this set is that it makes just 4 quarts or 4 pints at a time. Now that's a number I can deal with and not feel overwhelmed with the whole process.

The package arrived just before Christmas, you know, during the time I was sick with that horrid bug that made me just want to stay in bed and have someone wait on me hand and foot. Cooking was on the bottom of my list of things to do. The pressure cooker sat in the box, pleading to be taken out and used. I'm happy to report that I'm feeling much better and have used my new toy several times now. I haven't done any canning yet — I checked the price of a half a flat of strawberries the other day and at $15, I decided to wait a few weeks to see if the prices would come down. I'm also planning to go see my cousin's in South Georgia, one of them has a blueberry farm and I love blueberry jam. Having farmer's in the family is a good thing!

I was so busy concentrating on using my pressure cooker correctly that I didn't take any photos and what's a post without photos? Boring. So last night I decided to experiment with a new recipe and I'm going to share the results with you today. First let me tell you that my fear of cooking under pressure has disappeared under the careful guidance of the folks from Fagor. Before I used my cooker the first time, I carefully read the manual. That helped, but I was still a little nervous. Has this stopped you from using a pressure cooker? Well, included with my cooker was a DVD and on that DVD are two chefs who demonstrate exactly how to use one of these puppies. This gave me the confidence I needed to get started.

I started out by just boiling a couple of cups of water to see if everything worked the way they showed me and to make sure I had the steps down. My first attempt didn't start out so good. I had enough steam in my kitchen to open my own spa. Luckily, I had the manual open to the trouble-shooting page and quickly realized I had not oiled the gasket in the lid. From what I've read, this differs from some manufacturer's instructions, but for the Fagor Duo, it is a must and is in their manual in black and white. I released the rest of the steam and using a spray oil, I quickly got back to the task at hand. This was all it took to make the pressure build up correctly.

Speaking of which, here's a pic of the lid…

See that little yellow button? When the pressure is built up, it pops up just like a Butterball turkey. That's when you turn the heat down and start timing your recipe.

I don't want to get ahead of myself though. To pressure cook, you add your ingredients to the pot, making sure you have some kind of liquid. You're cooking with steam, so you have to have liquid. The manual and pressure cooker recipes tell you how much liquid to use. Never less than 1/2 cup and up to at least 2 cups for longer cooking times.

Then you lock on your lid. The Fagor Duo has a mark on top — see it to the left of the handle — that you line up with a mark on the handle, twist and then lock it with that slider button. Good news is, it won't lock it you don't have it on correctly. Thanks Fagor! If you forget to lock it, steam will start coming out the sides as pressure begins to build. I know this, because it happened to me. I thought I was doing it correctly, but no, that was not the case. I forgot to lock the lid. Good news, I knew exactly what to do — lock the darn thing!

Note the turning thingy on top, this is called the operating valve. To the left is how you release the steam naturally, then the numbers are for low or high pressure cooking. Not all cookers have this option, this one does. It is also a safety valve — if the pressure starts to build up too high, the valve lifts and steam comes out. A gentle stream is good, but a strong steam means the heat is too high. Turn it down and continue cooking. If the little yellow button doesn't pop up after cooking for five minutes, it means you don't have enough liquid. The same is true if it starts to go down before your cooking time is done. Its like Pressure Cooking for Dummies. Sounds more complicated than it actually is, I found pressure cooking to be easy if you watch what your doing carefully. I'm confident that after a few more uses, this will all become second nature. I should also tell you that not all pressure cooker have that little yellow button that pops up. Fagor really has provided everything to take the pressure off pressure cooking!

Before I share my recipe with you, I want to add that another thing I love about pressure cooking is that it's fast. I do use my slow cooker for a few recipes, but overall, I think slow cooking takes out a lot of flavor. If you're not careful, extended cooking times will deplete your recipe of any taste. The meat will be dry and chewy. I've had slow cooker meals at friends homes and they rave about it, I smile as I slowly try to get the crap stuff down my throat. If you're a fan of slow cooking, ignore that remark and never invite me for dinner. Sorry, just not a fan. There are some cooks who have slow cooking down to a science, they know exactly how long something should cook before loss of flavor kicks in, those are the folks who will love me as a guest. I'll marvel at their cooking skills and even help with dishes.

Pressure cooking is FAST. This makes my time in meal preparation much shorter, by up to 70%, and it means my electric bill will be a bit lower. I'm all about conserving energy and saving money. Plus, the shorter cooking time means no loss of flavor or nutrients. Oh yea, I love my pressure cooker!

So, let's get on with today's recipe, shall we?

I call this, Jamaican Chicken Stew. This is not a traditional dish in Jamaica, but the seasoning I chose to use is McCormick's Perfect Pinch Caribbean Jerk Seasoning. I love Jamaican cooking and this is a really easy and light version of traditional ingredients used in this style. (Sugar, Spices — including Red Pepper, Thyme, and Allspice, Salt, Onion, and Turmeric.) I use it a lot and I'm always pleased with the results. I should note here that when I do cook traditional Jamaican cuisine, I use a spice blend from Jamaica and in the future I will show you how to make Jerk Chicken from scratch using a wet sauce.

This was my first time pressure cooking without a recipe, I looked at recipes with similar ingredients (chicken and potatoes) to select my cooking time.

First I cut up two boneless chicken breasts into bite-size pieces. I sautéed this with one sweet onion, cut in chunky slices and about 1/3 each of a red and an orange bell pepper, cut in strips and then cut in half.

I sprinkled this generously with the Caribbean Jerk Seasoning, sorry I didn't measure, but it was probably about 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons.

After sautéing for about 5 minutes (until chicken was browned and onion was translucent) I added one 15 oz. can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes. I always use either Muir Glen or Hunt's, they are my favs. I prefer the Muir Glen, because they are organic, but buy the Hunt's when they are on sale. They are both very tasty and so much more flavorful that regular diced tomatoes. At the same time I added 8 red potatoes that I had cut into chunky bite-size pieces.

I then reached for a can of chicken broth and discovered I didn't have any! I needed more liquid, but didn't want to use just plain water. I made the decision to use one can of Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup. The only thing I ever use this for is  a traditional Southern dish, Chicken and Rice, which is a real comfort food from my childhood. I don't usually cook with or eat this soup, but it's all I had, so I dumped it in, along with one can of water. I put on the lid, locked it and turned up the heat. Yes, I remembered to lock the lid this time. I waited for the little yellow button to pop up, turned down the heat a bit and crossed my fingers. I timed this recipe for 10 minutes on high pressure based on another recipe I saw that included bite-size chicken pieces and potatoes. Timing is everything, well, that and pressure.

I then crossed my fingers and kept an eye on the yellow button. It stayed high and steady. At one point the safety valve let me know my heat was too high, so I adjusted that. Since I cook on electric, it can take a minute or so to adjust, so I pulled my cooker off the heat for a minute. I watched the button and it never lowered, so I didn't adjust my time.

Ten minutes later my timer went off and I pulled the cooker off the burner. I used the natural release method, which means I turned the top valve over to release. The pointer shows you which way the steam will go, so that you don't burn yourself. Another safety feature on the Fagor Duo is that the lid will not unlock until the steam is released enough to be safe to open. Thanks again Fagor!

I opened the lid and voilá…my stew was ready…

Five minutes sautéing, ten minutes steaming and my stew was delicious and perfectly cooked. The chicken was tender and moist, the potatoes were tender, but not falling apart and all the flavors were locked in. I mean I can't tell you how delicious this recipe turned out. I would not change a thing, not even the addition of the cream of chicken soup. The broth was so good, I used bread to get every last drop. You don't have to take my word for it though, my granddaughter, who is famous for sitting there and picking out every last piece of onion and pepper, did everything but lick the bowl. Trust me, that is high praise indeed.

This dish would be great served with a baguette and a nice glass of red wine.

Overall, I was very pleased with my first attempt at pressure cooking without a recipe. I wanted this cooker to use for canning, but now I'm hooked on pressure cooking. I loved how it cooked, it was easy to clean and my meal was scrumptious. I can't wait to see what else this baby can do for me.

Speaking of what else it can do, while I was googling pressure cooking tips and recipes last week, I came across a blog called, Hip Pressure Cooking — making pressure cookers hip again, one recipe at a time!

This fabulous blogger has the most mouth-watering recipes for pressure cooking and she not only has them listed by difficulty — Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced, she has them listed by season, by type, by course and by diet. How cool is that? The best news? She just so happens to be starting a Beginner Basics Recipe Series on her blog this coming Tuesday! Timing is everything, both in cooking and in finding new blogs to follow, so if I've peaked your interest at all in this method of cooking, you just might want to check her out. She also has a tab for submitting recipes, I just may put this one in recipe form and send it in.

Speaking of other blogs, there's a new guy in town and his name is Ryan. I found his blog, Florida Keys Living, through Caron of Everything Coastal, if you haven't been to her blog or her store — what are you waiting for?

Ryan, as you probably guessed, blogs from the Florida Keys, where he lives with his wife and two of the cutest puppies you've ever seen. Ryan works as a fishing mate at one of the local marina's in the middle keys and posts recipes, such as:

Conch Reef Style Mahi-Mahi Fingers

Bacon Wrapped Lobster

Yellowtail Snapper Fish Tacos

I'm getting hungry just thinking about them; ya'll know how much I LOVE fish tacos. He also posts about the fish he's caught, like these two Snappers…

I am so jealous! Theres also a pic of him with a 25-pound Mahi-Mahi. Planning a trip to the Keys? Ryan can tell you where to fish for sure.

Now he's new at this blogging thing, so please do stop in and say hello. New bloggers all need encouragement from our community, so that they continue to post and I want more recipes from him! I also want to watch those puppies grow and see more local pics like the one of the sunset from their balcony.

Oh, and if you're landlocked and you don't have access to some of Florida's finest seafood (Stone Crab Claws, Snapper, Mahi-Mahi, Grouper, Spiny Lobster Tails and more), Ryan is the man to see about having some shipped for your next soiré. There's a link on his blog to his online seafood store.

I have gone on and on today haven't I? I'm not known for writing the shortest posts, but I hope you found this one interesting and informative. Thanks for reading along, I appreciate you so much and look forward to your comments.

One more quick pic before I go, since it's food related. Last weekend, my daughter and I drove from Tampa to Neptune Beach to visit my cousin and pick up a few things out of my storage unit. On the way home we stopped at one of our favorite produce stands on Highway 301 to pick up a few things. I couldn't believe they were still open at 8:30pm and were standing out there in about about mid-30s temps, with the wind blowing. It was cold, so we made our purchases as quickly as possible. I just had to show you this H U M O N G O U S grapefruit I bought…

The seller had one sliced up for sampling and as soon as it hit my taste-buds I was sold. I like grapefruit in ambrosias and certain green salads, but I seldom eat them out of hand without lots of sugar. These were so sweet and delicious, I splurged and paid the whopping $3 they were asking. The photo doesn't really portray just how big this thing is, so I measured it for you. The circumference was just over 21-inches! I've eaten some everyday for the last five days and it's almost gone. I saved a bit to have this afternoon and I'm already wishing I had bought two.

That's it, finally, don't ya think?

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend

and find some joy in each day. 

17 Thoughtful Comments:

Simone @ Doberman's by the Sea said...

Sounds great! Thanks for sharing.

Cass @ That Old House said...

That stew looks fabulous! It might even tempt me to try a pressure cooker; I won a cooker some years back, but haven't used it; I am convinced it will blow up and kill me.

But I guess not, eh?
And that grapefruit? HOLY MOLY.
that's all I've got to say.

Jane said...

Yum! I have never used a pressure cooker...or canned anything other than tomatoes in a water bath. Hmmm...

I am drooling over Ryan's snapper!!!
He will definitely get a visit from me...both on the blog and when I get to the Keys...

I just told Marty that I was craving snapper. Had some in Venice, not too long ago...It's my favorite fish!
(Marty and I just had lunch at Ozona Blue...and I thought of you and our lunch there. Great memory...
Sunrise shelling...when it's WARMER...sound good! Looking forward to it.

Calypso In The Country said...

I have never attempted a pressure cooker but I do cook with those spices! Yum! Sounds like you are having fun! Thanks for stopping by today, I will post my cleaned out drawer when it looks nice and pretty!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Rhonda, I can't get over that pressure cooker chicken. I always love it when you do a review because I know I will get the real scoop, and this looks wonderful. i might have to buy one of those.

And I will be sure and drop by this weekend to meet your friend.

Love you much...


Sheila :-)

Leo said...

Thanks for another great post!!! I joined Ryan's blog - he has some awesome recipes. So thanks for passing that on.

I have always wanted a pressure cooker. I love the way food tastes when made this way. I need to go out and finally get one. Thanks for the recipe...I am going to order one this weekend!

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi Rhonda
Yo lucky gal.. for some reason I've always wanted a pressure cooker. not sure why as I don't cook much these days.. but I should.. come winter I love stews and soups so think it would be fab for those sorts of dishes..

okey dokey.. have a great weekend.. and have some fun!! ciao xxx Julie

Everything Coastal said...

oh yum. So glad you found Ryan and his recipes.

I am definitely trying this one!


Sue said...

The stew looks delicious! You must have been so excited to have a new "toy". Don't you just love CSN? I've never had a pressure cooker. My mom didn't have one either. I heard horror stories when I was a kid about them exploding and burning people. The new ones are so much safer and I have a friend who uses hers for roasts and other meals often. She loves hers and it sounds as if you are going to be using yours quite a bit!

Karen said...

What a fun blog! I'm your newest fan..a New Englander who longs for a Florida getaway. I'll use your blog for now. And, are you sure that's not a Pomello? They are alittle bigger than grapefruit and sweeter..easy to eat without sugar.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

What a wonderful CSN purchase! Your stew sounds hubby uses lots of those spices in his grilling! And could you stop by with a fish or two? WOW! AWESOME catch! ♥

Simple Daisy said...

Ooh...yum!!! I have never used a pressure cooker....I might have to give it a whirl:)

Simple Daisy said...

Ooh...yum!!! I have never used a pressure cooker....I might have to give it a whirl:)

Kat said...

That stew looks delicious. I hadn't thought of pressure cookers in years. I used to can quite a bit. Was never big on cooking in one, but the speed really appeals to me. I tend to agree on slow cooker meals. It's fine for some things, but ...I think I'd have to get a newer model though. Mine is ANCIENT, and I would probably put the lid through the ceiling haha. Thanks for the review, it was really helpful, and I trust your take on things. Hope you are having a bright, sunshiny day. It's cold, gray and rainy here - has been for 3 days now. ENOUGH already :) Kat

Marlene said...

I have GOT to try that stew! It looks and sounds delicious!

Sierra said...

that looks amazing and i love your stew! what a fabulous way to cook and you did a great job!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the mention and linkage! I added a link to your blog on my sidebar and posted it on facebook!



hip pressure cooking
making pressure cooking hip, one recipe at a time!

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