Review: The Everything Pressure Cooker Cookbook

December 4, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Originally posted at Well Fed on December 2, 2009.

1682, 12th April: I went this afternoon with several of the Royal Society to a supper which was all dressed, both fish and flesh, in Monsieur Papin’s digesters, by which the hardest bones of beef itself, and mutton, were made as soft as cheese, without water or other liquor, and with less than eight ounces of coals, producing an incredible quantity of gravy; and for close of all, a jelly made of the bones of beef, the best for clearness and good relish, and the most delicious that I had ever seen, or tasted. We eat pike and other fish bones, and all without impediment; but nothing exceeded the pigeons, which tasted just as if bak’d in a pie, all these being stewed in their own juice without any addition of water save what swam about in the Digester. . .

Diary and Correspondence of John Evelyn, F.R.S.

The meal to which Evelyn is referring was cooked by Denis Papin.  Papin prepared it for England’s King Charles II and members of the Royal Society, the British national academy of science, to demonstrate his new cooking apparatus the Digester.  And thus began the nefarious history of the Pressure Cooker.

Fast forward two and a half centuries, America has just emerged from the First Great Depression and the Second World War.  It is the era of the working mother which means there is a need for dinner to hit the table faster but the microwave oven is still more than a decade away.  What’s the modern mom to do?  Enter Monsieur Papin’s Pressure Cooker.  The problem is that those early cookers were a bit on the dangerous side.

Today the same cannot be said.  The Pressure Cooker is superior to the microwave oven for speedy cooking because it does not adversely effect the quality of food.  But just how does one use the Digester?  Enter Pamela Rice Hahn.

Hahn, the author of more than 20 books, has just released The Everything Pressure Cookbook (Adams Media) and it is your entrance to the world of pressure cookery.  The author takes you on a quick trip through the history of the device as well as tips and safety measures.  Oh yeah, and 300 recipes for everything from jams and preserves to entrées and even desserts.

So just how fast is pressure cooking?  Remember grandma cooking her pot roast for hours?  Hahn’s takes 45 minutes.  Fall-off-the-bones pork ribs – 55 minutes.  Cheesecake cooks in just eight.  And the quality is just as good if not better than traditional methods.  Professionals have rediscovered this cooking method to handle the extreme time constraints of cooking contests like Iron Chef and Top Chef, too.  If it’s good enough for an Iron Chef then it’s good enough for you.

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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."

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