Saturday, August 26, 2006

Risotto in the Pressure Cooker

The first job I had when I moved to Ann Arbor was selling cookware at Kitchen Port, a local kitchen shop. It was an interesting job, and I learned much of what I know about cookware, knives, and gadgets during my time there.

I always had a fascination with the pressure cookers, but at over $100 for the smallest of the Kuhn-Rikons we carried, I wasn't willing to pony up the money to try one out. The promise of a pressure cooker is significant - no need to braise a stew for hours and hours, just pop it all the pressure cooker and 20 minutes later, dinner is served. But I wasn't willing to take a chance on the reality.

So when I came upon a pressure cooker for $1 at a yard sale last summer, it was a no-brainer that I would buy it. If it didn't work, or I hated it, I was only out $1. If I actually used it and liked it, I could decide if I wanted to get a more elaborate one.

It worked fine, and a year later I'm still thrilled with it. I haven't used it a lot, maybe pulling it out once a month or so, but it was only $1, so in any calcuation of meals per dollar spent on cookware, it totally wins. Perhaps this winter I'll try a few more stews and get a little more adept at using it. But yesterday, faced with a conflict between my desire for risotto and my aversion to standing over a hot stove for 25 minutes in the 100% humidity we're living in right now, I decided to try it out for risotto.

Using a pressure cooker for risotto seems counterintuitive. Afterall, the defining characteristic of risotto for most of us is that you have to stir it constantly, and you can't do that with a sealed pot. But lots of people absolutely swear by the pressure cooker version (although the method is not without it's detractors), so I thought I'd give it try.

It certainly was easy - saute some aromatics, toast the rice, add the liquid, put the lid on, and then it's just a matter of timing the cooking. There's not a lot of savings in cooking time, but since you don't have to stir, it's time you can spend doing other things. Taste wise, it was pretty good. Next time I would cook it for a minute or two less, as it had gone past the nice firmness one expects from a risotto. The chicken stock I used was unsalted, so it would have been better to add some salt earlier in the cooking process. It was a little denser than a stirred risotto, but that may also have been a factor of being a little overcooked. My husband said that, given the choice, he'd prefer non-pressure cooked risotto, but that he certainly wouldn't say no to another helping of this one.

Here's the recipe I used, adapted from The Pressure Cooker Gourmet. The recipes in this cookbook look great, and I bought it very enthusiastically, but I haven't used it nearly as much as I thought I would. Maybe a resolution for the fall...

Pressure Cooker Risotto
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white part only, cleaned and sliced (onions or shallots could be substituted)
1.5 cups arborio or other risotto rice
0.5 c white wine
3.5 c chicken stock (preferably homemade, add salt if necessary)
1/3 c grated parmesan reggiano (about 1 oz)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the olive oil and butter in the pressure cooker. Add the leek and saute for a couple minutes, just until soft but not beginning to brown. Add the rice and stir to coat with oil. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until it starts to have a toasty aroma and the exterior looks translucent. Add the white wine and cooking, stirring, until the wine is absorbed. Add the chicken stock, then put on the pressure cooker lid. Bring up to pressure over high heat, 3-4 minutes, then lower to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 6 minutes (original recipe said 8). Carefully release any remaining pressure and open lid. Stir in cheese and season to taste.

This would be great with some blanched or steamed fresh vegetables and some chopped parsley stirred in with the cheese.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Thanks for the tips. We bought a Fagor pressure cooker recently and I'm going to try making risotto in it tonight.