A KITCHEN APPLIANCE…WITH SUPER-POWERS
A couple of weeks ago, I talked about my favorite places to eat. In that article I callously neglected to mention how much I love my beautiful wife’s cooking, or that I love my own cooking (most of the time). I have to qualify mine because often, I am inclined to experimentation, which sometimes comes out delicious and sometimes not. The other fare that I forgot to mention is a good Church Potluck. Years ago, a friend joked that we members of the Church of Christ can’t get into Heaven without a covered dish. I have to admit we do love to get together for food and fellowship.
I have a fond memory of my mom’s pressure cooker filling our house with the rattling sound of steam escaping around the weight on top and the wonderful smell of dinner. There were many a Sunday morning that I would wake up to the jigger and hiss of her signature potluck fare cooking on the stove. Her specialty was a dish I’ve never even seen offered on a restaurant menu or even on a steam table in the many neighborhood diners I have eaten at over the years. Neither have I ever encountered it at the multitude of potlucks I have been blessed to attend in Churches across the Country. Hers, was a dish that elicited a surprise reaction for the unoriented culinary novice to her cooking. It was Pork and sauerkraut, but she had a magic ingredient that made it something else altogether. I distinctly remember my Uncle moving next door to us when he took the job of the City Manger of Floresville after running YMCAs all over the country in places like Aurora, CO, Jonesboro, AR and Big Spring, TX.
Before Church, he came to our house just as mom was releasing the steam from her big aluminum pressure cooker. The smell of pork cooked fork-tender, mixed with sauerkraut was pretty distinctive. Uncle Everett, (my mom’s brother) was a big jovial man. When she offered him a taste, he leaned over the pot and scooped out a big mouthful. He blew it until it was cool enough to eat and when he put it into his mouth his eyes lit up. He swallowed and said: “That’s sweet! I expected something sour.” You see, my mom’s secret ingredient was brown sugar. She loved getting people to try it for the first time and delighted in their surprised reaction.
Another couple of dishes she made was stuffed cabbage and the third I remember was her spaghetti sauce with “braciola” (bree-zsole), which is thin rolled up steak tied with a string and cooked in sauce. It was a favorite of my Sicilian Step Grandfather Bill Ambrogio who often visited us with my grandmother from Connecticut.
Now, I told all of that to tell this… A couple of times over the years, I have bought pressure cookers and tried to duplicate my mom’s skill, usually with disappointing results. Most of the time, I would burn whatever I tried to cook in a pressure cooker, and eventually it would be dispatched at a garage sale.
When electric power pressure cookers came out I suggested we buy one, but Lori was reluctant, remembering past results. She also pointed out we didn’t need another appliance we don’t use. For our potluck fare, the Leonard cooking vessel of choice is a slow cooker and we have two of them.
A week ago I was in Rockwall and stopped at the Healing Hands thrift store, one of the best second hand stores around. On the shelf I found a “Power Pressure Cooker XL PRO” that looked brand new and was only $18. I decided to give it a try. Now, Lori has imposed a second-hand store, two for one rule on me. If I bring something home from a thrift store I have to get rid of two of something. So, when I got home I argued that we could replace one of our slow cookers as well as our rice cooker with this one appliance. Reluctantly, she acquiesced. Since then, I have used the electric pressure cooker four times, all with terrific results. First, I made beef stew. I put it on and not long later, Lori came in and saw me releasing the steam. She said: “Did you give up already?” I said, “Beeper went off. I think it’s done.” When I opened the lid, I let Lori take the first taste. It was perfect. After that, I made my mom’s stuffed cabbage, stuffed bell pepper, and last night I just loaded it with chicken thighs onions and seasoning. The result was very tasty indeed.
My new power pressure cooker didn’t have an instruction manual. Kind of like the suit a high school teacher was given by aliens in the 1980’s TV cult classic, The Greatest American Hero, where the hero and his sidekick are left on their own to figure out the capabilities of the suit he was given.
So far, I’m four for four cooking great dishes, but the settings are a complete guess. If you have a great recipe for a Power Pressure Cooker XL Pro, please email it to me at: email@example.com or share it on facebook. I’d be anxious to try it. Just remember to tell me what button to mash and how many times.