Pressure cooker, take one: “refried” beans

Today marked the end of the dough chapter of my Two Week Technique saga.  A week ago, I prepared a dish using the last of my three chosen dough recipes and I should have–were I to be following my own rules–completed my education by making something with dough without a recipe.  However, my mom gave me some advice:  even the most experienced bakers usually follow some sort of a recipe because with dough, the ratios of the main ingredients are beyond crucial.  So, I made an exception.  I succeeded three times with dough and I’m good with that.  So tonight, we move on.  For the next two weeks, I’m on a mission to learn how to use my pressure cooker!

In February, I visited my grandma in Montana.  In her garage was a counter piled high with all kinds of kitchen goodies:  pots, pans, bowls, cups, ice cream makers (yes, plural)…..you name it, it was probably there.  She was getting rid of it all and encouraged me to take home whatever I wanted.  I grabbed some bowls and some mini pocket pie molds, but what really had me drooling was the pressure cooker.  My mom had recently purchased one and repeatedly gushed about it.  I snatched that sucker up and went on my merry way.

Fast forward five months.  The poor thing sat in a dark cabinet in my kitchen collecting dust.  You see, when I first took it, I was still a shitty cook.  When you’re incapable of crushing cookies into crumbs or frying bacon, you’re definitely not qualified to use a pressure cooker.  But I’ve come a long way since then, so I feel it’s time I can pursue a relationship with my pressure cooker.

The first pressure cooker recipe I chose was for “refried” beans.  The plan for dinner was tacos, which meant that even if my first pressure cooker attempt were to fail, dinner wouldn’t be ruined–it would just be beanless.

I’ve never been more nervous to try out a new cooking technique!  Not only did it take several cooking websites and multiple Youtube videos before I understood how the thing even operated, but I still didn’t have a clue what I was doing after I’d prepared my mise en place.  To top it all off, my mind was swarming with everything I’d read and seen regarding EXPLOSIONS caused by pressure cooking.  My cooker has the “safety” feature that’s meant to prevent such an event, but nothing is foolproof (and I’m no fool!).  I was a nervous wreck.

Once I added the ingredients, I locked the lid (and fumbled, despite all my practice earlier in the day).  I stood by the stove as I waited for the pressure regulator to start steaming, but not without flinching every few seconds for fear of my dear new friend exploding on me.  Eventually the pressure regulator began to hiss and I left the beans to simmer while I transported myself to the safety of another room in the house.

The recipe’s instructions were to cook the beans at high pressure for 7-10 minutes and then let them sit while the pressure released.  After I did as instructed, I removed the lid to discover that the beans were only about halfway cooked and the pot was still filled with water.  Trying not to panic, I returned the cooker to the burner and cooked them on high pressure for another few minutes.  It was such a beautiful sight to open the lid and see tender, puffy beans and almost no water!  Armed with a potato masher, I mashed the CRAP out of those beans.

These “refried” beans, though not fried at all, were really good and just what I was expecting!  It was a lot of work for something I could have easily purchased in a can, but it’s the sense of accomplishment that I love.  Plus, I’ve now been officially acquainted with my pressure cooker and I’m hoping this is a sign we’ll get along well!

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