When Life Gives You Pressure, Cook With It
I have been under a significant amount of pressure the past year, mostly as a result of taking on the responsibilities of building a house without a general contractor or architect. Am I crazy for doing so (and for a myriad of other reasons)? Yes. Does that make me a prime candidate to write about my latest culinary obsession, which effectively takes the pressure off of me and contains it all within an eight quart metal pot? Also yes.
I used to braise short ribs over a 72 hour period, low and slow using my handy dandy immersion circulator. But sometimes a Carhardt-clad gal wants to come home to a melty piece of tender beef after a long day spent mounting toilets and sweeping up sheetrock, even if she hasn’t planned for such an occasion three days previous. And that’s where the pressure cooker comes in to save dinner.
I never would have thought it possible to tenderize ribs in under an hour using anything besides a tractor wheel, but now that I’ve drank the pressure cooker Koolaid, I am an unwavering convert. In fact, it’s getting to be a little bit of a problem.
I continually toss random things into the pressure cooker like it’s a magic witch’s cauldron and they keep coming out cooked perfectly. We’re talking chicken feet, cow tails (yes cow, not ox), and rabbit carcasses here, which could either mean that I’m making all sorts of delicious stock or that I’m a bona fide spell-spinning witch, you be the judge. Either way, my black cat is steering ve-e-ery clear of me these days, even though there’s no way his chubby self would ever fit inside the pressure cooker. Not that I’ve thought about putting him in there. Yes I have I haven’t, I swear.
After that last paragraph, you probably don’t want to read my pressure cooker recipes, but you might want to book a cooking class with me if you have an evil ex-boyfriend you wish to punish. For trusted recipes that don’t involve tossing in 3 drams of your true love’s tears, I’d steer you in the direction of America’s Test Kitchen, as they’ve just written an entire cookbook on the subject, entitled, “Pressure Cooker Perfection,” available for preorder and due out in March.
In the book, you’ll find building block recipes like soups and stews, which will give you enough confidence to move on to their more advanced meals such as boeuf bourguignon and osso buco. And as referenced earlier, their short rib recipe is good enough to serve both your toothless great grandma (she can gum it- yay!) and a toothsome hot date (maybe she’ll, er, gum you later because dinner was SO good- yay again!).
I am a big fan of whole roasted chickens, as is, like everyone on earth, given that it’s the most common “last meal” request. ATK has a whole chicken recipe that takes virtually no time and that you could do with your eyes closed and hands tied behind your back, it’s so easy. Never one to accept something at face value, I take their recipe a step further by removing the skin of the cooked bird, deep-frying it, and crumbling it over the finished dish. I like to serve this on top of homemade egg noodles, which I make while the bird is whistling away inside the cooker.
This recipe is a great one to kickstart a love affair with pressure cooking, so I’m reprinting the galley copy of it here. I hope you enjoy pressure cooking as much as I have so far.
Whole Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon Sauce
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
Getting a juicy whole bird with a richly flavored sauce in a pressure cooker required just a few key steps. Browning the skin created fond that lent the sauce and the chicken flavor, and placing the bird in the pot breast side up meant the slower‐cooking dark meat was on the pot’s bottom and got a jump start over the breast meat. After browning, we sautéed aromatics, then stirred in flour and deglazed the pot with wine. At this point the sauce was overly thick, but as the chicken cooked, it released juices that created a sauce that was flavorful and the perfect consistency.
Pressure Level: High
Time Under Pressure: 25 minutes
Total Time: About 1 1/4 hours
1 (4-pound) whole chicken, giblets discarded
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1. BUILD FLAVOR: Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in pressure‐cooker pot over medium‐high heat until just smoking. Place chicken, breast side down, in pot and brown well, about 4 minutes. Using tongs, gently turn chicken over and brown back side of chicken well, about 4 minutes; transfer to plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot.
2. Add onion to fat left in pot and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and rosemary and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in wine, scraping up any browned bits, and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 minute. Stir in broth. Place chicken, breast side up, in pot with any accumulated juices.
3. HIGH PRESSURE FOR 25 MINUTES: Lock pressure‐cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure over medium‐high heat. As soon as pot reaches high pressure, reduce heat to medium‐low and cook for 25 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure.
4. QUICK RELEASE PRESSURE: Remove pot from heat. Quick release pressure, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.
5. BEFORE SERVING: Transfer chicken to carving board, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 15 minutes. Using large spoon, skim excess fat from surface of sauce. Bring sauce to gentle simmer, whisk in butter and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Carve chicken, discarding skin if desired, and serve with gravy.
MAKING A WHOLE CHICKEN IN A PRESSURE COOKER
Even though browned skin can’t stay crisp in the moist cooking environment of the pressure cooker, we still brown the skin to give the chicken visual appeal and to infuse the sauce with flavor.
Arranging the chicken in the pot breast side up is key to even cooking. Putting the slower-cooking dark meat in contact with the bottom of the pan allows it to finish cooking through at the same time the more delicate breast meat is done.
Just as with a roasted chicken, a whole chicken cooked under pressure should be rested for a few minutes before carving to allow the juices in the meat to redistribute.
While the chicken rests, we make the sauce. The liquid in the pot is infused with great meaty flavor from the juices of the chicken. After skimming off excess fat, all we need to do is whisk in butter, to give it a silky texture, plus a few teaspoons of lemon juice for some balancing brightness.
How do I know my chicken is cooked through?
After removing the lid, the breast should register 160 degrees and the thighs 175 degrees. If it isn’t done, simmer the chicken until cooked through.
Can I use a larger chicken in this recipe?
If you have an 8-quart pressure cooker, you can fit up to a 5 1/2-pound chicken in the pot. For chickens that weigh 5 pounds or more, increase the pressurized cooking time to 35 minutes.
Can I substitute chicken breasts?
Yes, you can substitute 4 (12-ounce) bone-in chicken breasts for the whole chicken; reduce the pressurized cooking time to 13 minutes.
Do I need to alter the recipe for a 6-quart electric pressure cooker?
Yes, quick release the pressure immediately after the pressurized cooking time; do not let the cooker switch to the warm setting. Before adding the butter and lemon to the sauce in step 5, simmer the sauce for 5 minutes to thicken using the browning (not the simmer) setting.
*America’s Test Kitchen sent me a Fagor Duo pressure cooker, which led me to write this post. I have been very happy with it so far, as I usually am with their highly-tested and rated kitchen gadgetry. My opinions, for better or for worse, are mine, all mine.