Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook

There's such a bewildering array of small (and large) kitchen appliances and gadgets available, it's often difficult or impossible to really know what is worth buying.  I remember my grandmother's pressure cooker and the hissing scary noises it made.  We never actually had any major mishaps when I was a kid, but everyone knew someone who had an explosive situation from a badly vented pressure cooker.  That was then, this is now...

With the safety and materials updates modern pressure cookers have undergone, the old fashioned pressure cookers are a thing of the past.  Today's electric pressure cookers come in a bewildering array of finishes, some nonstick, with all kinds of bells and whistles.  Some even double as slow cookers, rice cookers and yogurt makers.

The Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook, by Barbara Schieving published by Harvard Common Press is a reassuring and encyclopedic look at the various pressure cooker options along with bells and whistles, as well as a cookbook with recipes which have been tested and adjusted specifically to pressure cooking.

The book is set up very logically with a preface and introduction covering the theory of pressure cooking (why it does what it does), specific models, and a very good how-to section.  The introduction covers roughly 10% of the page content.  The following chapters are arranged by types of food: breakfasts, sandwiches/wraps/tacos, soups, shortcut dinners, 30 minute meals, Sunday suppers, sides, and desserts.  There are over 200 recipes, certainly enough to keep most cooks busy and experimenting for ages.  One of the things I really liked about this book was how many variations there were and how easily the recipes could be altered and mixed up for completely different presentations.

I had no idea my pressure cooker was so versatile and had only cooked chicken and pot roast in it previously.  When reviewing cookbooks, I try to test out at least 3 recipes.  In this case, I tried the Maple-Almond-Raisin Breakfast Risotto (p. 42), which came out beautifully cooked and moist.  My kids have begged for a reprise constantly since...  it could definitely become a family favorite.  We also tested the shredded chicken tacos (p. 49).  They were fine, and this recipe is suitable for experimentation, barbecue, smoked flavor, etc.

I have never used a pressure cooker for dessert/baking before...   So I decided to try out the peanut butter cup cheesecake (p. 284).  My pressure cooker needed a second 5 minute round of cooking in order to get the internal temp up to 150F in the center, but after that, everything went fine and the cheesecake was firm and smooth and delicious.  I have plans to repeat the recipe for a work potluck dinner coming up soon.

The recipes seem varied and well made.  There are a lot of Asian American, southwest/tex-mex, Italian, and lots of 'American comfort food' dishes.  Good solid family food.  The food and recipes are photographed very well.  It's not fussy or overdone. 

The recipe chapters are followed by acknowledgement and bio pages as well as a short index.

Four and a half stars.  I am absolutely sure my pressure cooker is going to get a lot more airplay from now on.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.

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