Crystal clear and nutritient dense stock and broths in 45 minutes. White beans like zolfini and cannellini; black eyed peas and chick peas cooked to perfection in 20 to 30 minutes with no overnight soaking. Ragu, stews and braises in an hour. My pressure cooker is the most used appliance in my kitchen and the one I would find hardest to live without. On a busy day when I have no time to cook I pull it out a half hour before dinner, open my refrigerator and put whatever mix of produce and leftovers I can find, along with some water or stock to cover them. In about 20 minutes I have a hearty and delicious soup or stew.
My mother used a pressure cooker too. She made stews, pot roasts, braises, soups, poached chicken, and lots more. It was an economical, energy efficient and time saving device that produced healthy meals for her large family. But if left unattended, sometimes even for a few minutes, her pressure cooker could erupt like a volcano. It’s contents would explode through the pressure valve spraying themselves all over the kitchen, creating a mess that sometimes took days, even weeks to clean. These pressure cookers have left a legacy of fear in many of us including most students that come to Petraia to take a class or to do a stage in my kitchen. But I’m here to tell you things have changed. There is a whole new generation of pressure cookers on the market and they are much safer and easier to use. In Europe, and especially here in Italy, pressure-cooking was never abandoned as an efficient way to cook. They are still an essential appliance in most home kitchens and over the past few decades their design and technology has been greatly refined and improved. They are reasonably priced and there is a huge selection of shapes and sizes available.
Yesterday we killed a couple of roosters at La Petraia. One was a proud cockerel who was a little too overprotective of his hens; his aggressive tendencies made it impossible for us to manage him. The other was a beautiful black and white bird who had been faithfully looking after his flock for years. He’d been good to them but as of late he’d been slowing down. He was a tough old bird whose time had come. Here’s what I’m doing with him today.
Pressure Poached Chicken
1 leek, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
A few black peppercorns
Cut the chicken into 6 pieces including 2 breasts, 2 legs and thighs and 2 wings. Reserve the breasts for another use and freeze the neck, carcass, feet (if you have them), and the wings to make stock with another day. Place the legs and thighs into the pot along with all of the other ingredients and cover with cold water. Lock on your pressure cooker lid and over high heat bring the pot to pressure. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the pressure come down completely before opening the pot with the steam vent pointing away from you. Check to see if the meat is tender and falling from the bone, if not return to pressure and continue cooking until it is done.
Serve the broth as a first course. Then the legs and thighs and the cooked carrots and leeks as the main course.