Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Guest Blogger Katrina Kashurba: Cooking Under Pressure


I’m in shock.  I just cooked creamy, flavorful risotto in less than 15 minutes.  This high-maintenance comfort food usually requires constant stirring for about an hour, but I used my secret weapon…a pressure cooker!
I think the pressure cooker is totally underrated.  Some people think it is an old-fashioned and even dangerous device...but I love it!

I can make tender beef or fall-off-the-bone ribs in about 30 minutes, instead of waiting impatiently while it slow-cooks for 8 hours in a crock pot.  It all relies on the principle of steam.  The lid is sealed tightly to create pressure, which in turn causes the temperature to rise past boiling, so the food cooks very quickly.

When I found out that I could make a luxurious risotto in a quarter of the time and without all of the constant stirring…I had to try it!


PRESSURE COOKER PARMESAN RISOTTO*(4 servings)
Ingredients:
2 shallots, or ½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 TB butter
1 TB olive oil
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
Pinch of saffron (optional)
½ cup of dry white wine or vermouth
4 cups of low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Steps:
  • Sauté the shallots in the butter and oil in the pressure cooker pot for a couple of minutes until softened.  
  • Add the Arborio rice and saffron and cook for about one minute to toast slightly.  (Saffron is optional because it can be expensive. I didn’t have any saffron handy, so I proceeded without it.) 
  • Pour in the wine (I used vermouth to try something different) and keep stirring until it evaporates.
  • Add 3 ½ cups of the broth.  
  • Lock the pressure cooker lid into place and cook on high pressure for 6 minutes.  No, that is not a typo.  This risotto will cook in only six minutes! (I have an old-fashioned stove top cooker that has the little valve on top that jiggles to let me know the pressure is building up.)
  • Remove the pressure cooker from the heat.  Please follow your user’s manual directions for releasing the steam because each pressure cooker is different.  I let mine cool down for a few minutes, then held the sealed pot under cold running water to lower the pressure inside.  
  • Remove the lid, stir the rice and taste-test.  It should be a little soupy and the rice al dente.  If it isn’t done yet, you can use the reserved ½ cup of broth until the rice is cooked (over medium heat).  
  • Remove from the heat and mix in the Parmesan cheese, saving some shavings for garnish.  
  • Serve immediately by spreading the risotto in a flat layer in a wide soup bowl or on a plate.
You can get creative and add cooked vegetables at the end.  I had some asparagus from the local farmer’s market on-hand, so I blanched it to help retain the vibrant green color, and added it with the cheese.  It was a nice spring veggie addition that blended well with the other flavors, and made it possible for this to be a stand-alone vegetarian dish.


I was amazed by the consistency of pressure-cooked risotto.   And another nice surprise…I expected to have a huge cleanup job ahead of me, but the rice did not stick to the bottom of the pot!  The next time I make this dish, I will use less Parmesan.  The cheese flavor was a bit strong for my preference.  I will also roast the asparagus next time to intensify the flavor!  The only downside to this speedy meal was that I completely forgot to make a martini with the rest of the vermouth!

*I adapted this recipe from The Pressure Cooker Cookbook, by Tori Ritchie

Katrina Kashurba is a freelance TV production guru based in Lewisburg, PA.  For fun, she loves to experiment in the kitchen, plan parties, cook for a crowd, invent cocktails, go on adventure vacations with her husband, “read” audio books, and watch college football.  



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