In Praise of Pressure

Not many people enjoy pressure, though I would say that plenty of folks work better under pressure than others. In fact, I would say that I am one of those people; I tend to do my best writing when under deadline pressure, and some of my best cooking is done when there is a time limit involved in the exercise.

I actually think that a lot of busy people who cook could do with a bit more pressure in their kitchens. I bet every harried twenty-first century reader who struggles to juggle job, family and homelife probably has decided that I am off my nut to say so, but I am not talking about the kind of pressure that makes a person run around in circles hooting like Daffy Duck and pulling at her hair.

I am talking about the kind of pressure that gives you time, rather than taking it away.

I am talking about a pressure cooker.

Oh! The lightbulb flashes and realization dawns! I am not advocating the ideal of driving oneself mad with over-work. I am promoting a kitchen tool that really does help make life easier, and gives folks who really don’t have all day to spend in the kitchen a way to make all of those homey, happy long-cooked comfort foods like stews, braises, curries, soups, chilis and mashed potatoes in less time than it takes to order a delivery pizza. (Depending on how fast your pizza people are. Mine here in Athens can be slower than molasses in January.)

Imagine this: boiling potatoes in about eight minutes or so, resulting in mashed potatoes in ten minutes. Or collard greens that take all of fifteen minutes to prep and cook. Or a pot roast in forty-five minutes. Or a stew in fifteen.

Or a pot of savory pinto beans in ten minutes, ready to be mashed and fried with onions and garlic, or to be turned into soup beans.

Just about anything that takes all day to cook can be cooked in less than an hour with a pressure cooker. Imagine that. Less than an hour. And it tastes long cooked, too. Often, in fact, meats are more meltingly tender and moist coming out of a pressure cooker than they are if they are braised or stewed using classical methods, because the extra pressure involved dissolves the fat and gelatins in the connective tissue even more efficiently than simply simmering the meat does.

They work very simply: liquid is brought to a boil in the cooker, along with whatever food items are to be cooked therein. The cook puts the lid on the cooker, which has a gasket in it to seal it completely, locks it down in several ways, then brings the cooker up to full pressure–usually around 15 psi. Then the heat is turned down to low, and the food is left to cook for the necessary amount of time until it is done. Then, pressure can be released in two ways.

The quick release method, which is best used for vegetables and some meats, but never beef, is to simply open the pressure valve and let the steam out. Flick a button, (make sure the steam valve is pointed away from you and anyone you love) and in a great hiss, the steam comes jetting out. (If there are any cats under my feet when I perform this operation, they teleport themselves instantly elsewhere, because the sound of steam escaping the little vent is apparently the same sound as the Great God of Cats hissing His displeasure.) The other way to release the pressure is called the “natural release,” which takes fifteen to twenty minutes. Basically, all you do is put the cooker off heat and let it cool down on its own. This is the method to use with beef; if you use the quick release method on beef, its will toughen because of the quick temperature and pressure inversion. (This isn’t a problem with other kinds of meat, though I tend to let the pressure on lamb, venison or bison drop naturally, too.)

I know, I know. Everyone is scared of pressure cookers, and everyone knows a story about somebody’s neighbor’s Aunt Tillie who was making spaghetti sauce in her pressure cooker and it exploded, sending a geyser of boiling steam and scarlet napalm lava all over the kitchen ceiling where it showered down and gave cousin Bubba third degree burns and killed the Avery the cat with shrapnel.

Well, I am here to put the Aunt Tillie myth to rest along with Avery the cat (God rest his feline soul). The modern pressure cookers have a whole passel of safety measures built into them to keep the geyser and shrapnel scenario from occuring. The new pressure valves have failsafe devices built into them; in some brands, if the vent is clogged and the pressure rises above safe limits, there is a second pressure valve that will open to release the steam that builds the pressure. In other brands, a failsafe valve opens because a metal alloy that will melt at the precise temperature and pressure of a cooker about to go into the danger zone melts, opening the valve. The downside of one of those cookers is that you then have to replace the pressure valve.

My favorite brands are the Fagor and Kuhn Rikon, though I find the latter to be unreasonably pricey. My current cooker is a Fagor, and I am quite happy with it, and have been using it to death for the past several years with no problem.

Cooking with a pressure cooker requires some finesse and practice, however. (At this point, some readers are probably thinking, “Well, why not use a crockpot–you just throw stuff in and walk away. Well, no you don’t, not if you want good food to come out of it, anyway–there is finesse involved in crockpot cooking, too.) Mixed stews, in particular, require some forethought and planning; different ingredients cook at different times in the pressure cooker, so you may have to cook in stages.

Take, for example, posole.

Posole, for those who do not know, is a form of corn that has been treated with lime (the mineral, not the fruit) so that its hull can be removed. Then, the hull is washed away. At this point, the posole can be cooked up nice and pretty, ground up into fresh masa dough, or dried again, so that it can be stored and cooked another day. This is a Native American staple food of the desert Southwestern US and northern Mexico.

Southerners may be more familiar with it as hominy. Hominy is made the same way, though I suspect the corn varieites are slightly different. Hominy can be ground up into grits–the quintessential Southern comfort food, or it can be cooked whole, and it is often canned, and in a pinch, one can use canned hominy to make posole stew, but I think that the texture and flavor of the dried corn product is much superior.

Anyway, dried posole takes a long time to cook. You are supposed to soak it overnight (or you can use the quick-soak method–bring a half pound of it to a boil in three cups of water, boil it for three minutes and then set aside to soak off heat, covered for an hour), and then cook it for a couple of hours until it is tender. Well, I don’t always remember to soak it overnight, and I don’t always want to sit around and nursemade a pot on the stove for several hours, nor do I think far enough ahead to use the crock pot, so, I turn to my pressure cooker, which cranks out perfectly cooked posole in forty-five minutes every time.

But, seldom do I make just posole. I like to make posole stew with pork and pinto beans. (I am told that the pork was brought by the Spaniards, and the pinto beans are a Sonoran variant. And here I thought the beans were my own hillbilly innovation.)

But, unsoaked pinto beans take fifteen minutes to cook, and cubes of pork shoulder or butt take about eight to twelve minutes to cook. What to do?

Well, it is simple enough. Saute some of the onions, garlic and chiles (Barbara’s Hillbilly Holy Trinity) in some bacon grease or olive oil until the onions brown, then throw in your posole and a good bit of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, slap the lid on, and bring up to pressure, then turn it down and let it cook for thirty minutes while you prepare the pork.

To prepare the pork, take your other half of the Holy Trinity, get those onions about halfway to brown, and then dump in the pork that you have dredged in seasoned flour and brown it all up nice and and lovely. Add some herbs. When the onions are caramelized and the meat has a nice, reddish brown crust on it, use some beer to deglaze the frying pan, and then reduce the beer. Scrape everything from that frying pan into a bowl, or heck, just leave it in the pan, covered, off heat, to wait.

At that point, the timer goes off, you quick release the pressure, add the beans, bring to a boil, put the lid on and bring back up to pressure and cook for seven minutes. Quick release the pressure and then throw in the pork, and the tomatillos, and bring back up to pressure, and cook for about eight to twelve minutes.

It is all a matter of timing. You end up with a savory stew in about forty-five minutes, and it tastes really, really good, especially if you have sweet, ripe tomatillos to add to it. If you don’t have tomatillos, you can add fresh tomatoes (I bet those really fresh cherry tomatoes would be perfect), but I like the tomatillos better, because they add a honey sweetness along with a bit of a tang to the dish.

And while the final cooking is going on, you just slice up some scallion tops and fresh chiles, and roughly chop some cilantro for a garnish. If you want, you can grate up some queso blanco or jack cheese, too. A bit of cheese never hurt anyone. And if you want the broth to be thicker, just cook up a tablespoon of oil with a tablespoon of flour until it is smooth and bubbly, and add it to the boiling stew.

And that is it. Simple, almost sinfully so, and fast, but it tastes like you cooked it all day.

Pressure Cooker Posole and Pork Stew

Ingredients:

1/2 pound dried posole, rinsed, soaked overnight
2 large onions, sliced thinly
3-5 ripe serrano chiles, sliced thinly
1 poblano chile, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon bacon grease or olive oil
2 teaspoons adobo seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 pinch Mexican oregano
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 pound boned cubed pork butt or shoulder
2 tablespoons flour seasoned with salt, pepper, adobo and smoked paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons bacon grease or olive oil
6 ounces of lager beer (drink the rest yourself, or save it for something else, or rinse your hair with it–it makes it shiny)
1 cup pinto beans, rinsed and soaked or unsoaked
1 pint fresh, preferably really ripe tomatillos
3 scallion tops, thinly sliced
1 ripe serrano chile, thinly sliced
1 handful cilantro leaves, rinsed and roughly chopped
handful of grated cheese (optional)

Method:

Drain the posole, rinse and drain again.

Divide your Holy Trinity ingredients into halves, setting one set of them aside.

In pressure cooker, melt bacon fat or heat olive oil on high heat. Add onions and chiles, and saute until onions turn medium brown. Add garlic, and cook until onions caramelize. Add seasonings, chicken broth and posole. Bring to a boil, put the lid on, lock it down and bring up to full pressure. When full pressure is achieved, turn down heat and set timer for thirty minutes.

In a frying or saute pan on high heat, heat bacon grease or olive oil, then cook onions and chile until onions are golden brown, then add garlic. Lower heat slightly and continue cooking. Dredge pork in seasoned flour, and when the onions are medium brown, turn heat back up, and add meat to pan. Allow meat to brown, stirring frequently, until onions are a mahogany color and the meat has a reddish crust on it.

Deglaze the pan with beer, and cook down until liquid reduces to a thick syrup. Turn off heat and set aside.

When timer goes off, quick release the pressure and open the cooker. Add drained and rinsed beans, and bring to a boil, lock lid in place and bring to full pressure. Turn down heat to low and set timer for eight minutes.

While beans are cooking, take the papery outer covering of the tomatillos off and rinse the fruits. Cut them all into halves if they are small, quarters if they are large.

When timer goes off, quick release the pressure, put pork and all juices from the pan in, dump in the tomatillos, bring to a boil, lock lid down, and bring to full pressure again. Turn down heat, set the timer for about eight minutes, and allow to cook. When timer goes off, quick release pressure and open cooker. Test all ingredients–the meat should be fork tender, the beans should be tender (blow on one in a spoon–if the skin splits under your breath, it is done) and the corn should be tender-chewy. If everything is done to your satisfaction, then great, you are done (unless you want to thicken the broth.) If something still needs cooking, bring it to a boil, lock down the lid, and bring up to pressure and cook about five minutes more. Repeat as necessary. (As you gain experience using a pressure cooker, you will begin to have a better feel for how long things take to cook.)

To thicken the stew, in the frying pan, melt one tablespoon of bacon grease or heat olive oil on high heat. Add one tablespoon of flour (use up what is left from dredging the meat) and stir into the hot fat. Cook, stirring, until thick and bubbly, then add to the boiling stew, and stir until thickened.

Top with garnishes and serve.

Notes:

If you want your posole to “bloom,” that is, if you want the endosperm to explode into flower-shaped balls as it cooks, you must remove the pointed tip cap from the seed after it has soaked. If you leave it intact, the corn kernel will stay in its shape even as it cooks fully. I am too lazy to remove the tip caps, so my posole never looks like “underwater popcorn,” as I have heard it aptly described by a child.

I used Goya’s Giant White Corn posole in this recipe, but there are many other kinds of posole available. When I have used up what I have, I want to try this red posole, and maybe some blue posole.

If you do not eat pork, you can substitute lamb in this recipe and it is utterly delicious.

If you do not eat meat, you can substitute a nice firm mushroom for the meat, or just make a corn and bean stew. In New Mexico, meatless versions of the dish are often used as a side dish for holidays.

You can use whatever chiles you want with the dish; I just happened to have poblanos and ripe serranos. I liked the sweetness the ripe serranos added.

You can add about a teaspoon of honey to bring out the natural sweetness of the pork. Just add it at the same time you add the pork. (You can use sherry or broth instead of the beer for the deglazing operation as well.)

You can add sweet bell peppers to the dish if you like, along with the chiles. I think ripe ones taste better than green ones in this dish, however.

You can leave out the beans, or add different beans if you like. Cannelini beans are very nice, though if you use white corn posole, there is no color variation. Black beans might be fun.

To learn more about pressure cookers, I suggest Lorna’s Sass’ books, Cooking Under Pressure and Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure. While I have never used her recipes as written, I have found that the general information in her books is very good, and the cooking time chart for dried beans in the latter book is the best thing since sliced bread. She is very methodical and her instructions are approachable, and I have used her recipes as a jumping off point for constructing my own pressure cooker specialties for several years.

24 Comments

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  1. Hmm, interesting. It sounds like a pressure cooker would be a good kitchen addition for vegetarians. I’m trying to incorporate more beans into my diet (and less meat) but the whole timing thing throws me off (I don’t think THAT far ahead) and canned beans can be so . . . lackluster.

    You are so persuasive!

    Comment by Amy — September 7, 2005 #

  2. Hey, Amy!

    I do think that pressure cookers are ideal for vegetarians, not only because of the way they cook dried beans, but also because they can cook whole grains quickly and in a tasty fashion.

    I, too, do not always think far enough ahead to bother with soaking beans or grains as is usually called for in recipes. Which is a large part of why I prefer the pressure cooker to the crock pot. They both do the same thing, just in opposing ways. But I think that a pressure cooker is more in line with the spontaneous nature of myself as a cook and person, but it also does what it does slightly better than a crock pot.

    There are lots of different kinds of pressure cookers out there–in all price ranges. The one thing I would not do were I you, is get a used one off of ebay that was older than about five years or so. Some of the older models did not have as many safety features (Hence the Aunt Tilly and the dead cat Avery stories) as the new pressure cookers have. Also, you may not be able to get new gaskets or other parts for an older cooker like you can for new models.

    On the other hand, if your Mom has one sitting around in a box, never used or that she hasn’t used in years, there is no harm in dusting it off and giving a couple of careful tryouts to see if you like the pressure cooker style of cooking before investing in a new one.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 7, 2005 #

  3. I share your pressure cooker enthusiasm (mine is a Kuhn Rikon) but perhaps you can tell me why my braised farmer’s market pork roast (which I would like to have tender and falling apart) always turns out rather solid and dry, when I can braise beef chuck beautifully. I’ve had a similar problem with vitellone.

    I was also surprised by your Lorna Sass recommendation until you said you didn’t use the recipes as written. I got her books and tried them out, but eventually realized I didn’t trust her sense of taste. I’ve been mostly winging it from there, but Madhur Jaffrey’s “Quick and Easy Indian Cooking” has been a big help.

    Comment by Beth — September 7, 2005 #

  4. Beth–without knowing what you are doing with your pork roast, I cannot tell you where it might be going wrong. Give me more information, and I will see what we can do. Tell me the cut you use, how much liquid, what kind of liquid, how much salt, time under pressure, pressure release method. There are any number of places it could be going awry. My pork roasts always turn out tender and juicy–I cook them as per the shredded meat post in the series, “The Whole Enchilada, Part II: The Filling.”

    As for Lorna Sass–I use her books for timing and inspiration–I have never used one of her recipes as written, ever. I use very few of anyone’s recipes as written, ever, anyway, but anyone who would make a thing called “Mexican Pork Stew” that includes pineapple, green olives, chiles and prunes gets voted off the island in my opinion. (And yes, Lorna included those ingredients in that recipe. Ick.)

    In a future post, I was going to talk about Madhur Jaffrey’s “Quick and Easy Indian Cooking,” as it was my very first cookbook with pressure cooker recipes in it–and -every- recipe I have used from it has been fantastic–and I even start out using hers as written. They don’t stay that way for long, of course–I always add my own touches, but Madhur says that is perfectly acceptable and to be expected.

    Lots of folks in the Indian subcontinent have and use pressure cookers, I have come to know. In fact, I bought my first one when I cooked for my Pakistani and Bangladeshi clients, so I could cook the dals and kormas and such that they really liked. Indian food is what made me fall in love with the pressure cooker.

    Mexican food keeps me in love with it.

    And pot roasts and stews and soups, not to mention my ability to make mashed potatoes on the run–that really all makes it worthwhile! At this point, I cannot imagine being without one.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 7, 2005 #

  5. Hrm…my Mom started getting into pressure cookers again after I moved out (figures). Any specific size/model recommendations? Perhaps something like this 4qt Fagor for just 2 people?

    (Your blog is great for filling out my wedding registry ;)

    Comment by etherbish — September 8, 2005 #

  6. Ladi–the general theory is to go for larger rather than smaller with a pressure cooker, in large part because you cannot fill it up all the way. A four quart pressure cooker will really limit how many beans you cook, because you have to leave extra room at the top for them to foam up so that the foam doesn’t get all the way to the lid and possibly clog the vent.

    I would go for the six quart Fagor for two people. Mine is a seven or eight quart, I think; it came with a second, smaller, four quart body, a plain glass lid so either pot could be used as just a regular cooking vessel, a steamer basket and a little thingie to raise food above the waterline.

    Glad to help with that registry!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 8, 2005 #

  7. Wow, what an intro.. about pressure cookers. Wow again about your detailed description and uses of pressure cookers.
    I am also one of those who can’t live without the pressure cooker. My brand is Hawkins, very reliable, never had any problems with it.

    Comment by Indira — September 8, 2005 #

  8. Hello, Indira!

    My very first pressure cooker was a Hawkins Futura! I wore it out in three years of very heavy use as a personal chef. It got lugged around to and from my car so much, and one time, it got dropped on the sidewalk and it cracked, and there was no way to fix it. It was dropped down a set of concrete stairs onto the sidewalk before it died. It bounced down the stairs. I felt very bad for it; it had become my good friend.

    I replaced it with a Fagor which I got on super sale. They are both great tools.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 8, 2005 #

  9. Aha! It sounds like you have the Duo Combi set. There is a 6qt Fagor Splendid as well. Time to go poke the chili chef in the house…and check out the cookbooks!

    Comment by etherbish — September 9, 2005 #

  10. If you like Indian food, the Madhur Jaffrey book is great, Ladi. I think you will enjoy using those recipes as written. Again–I use the Lorna Sass books for technical information and cooking times, primarily, and they taught me the trick of sequencing ingredients properly in a dish so everything came out cooked correctly. If you just throw everything in all at once, you risk getting some things half cooked and tough, while others are turned into unappealing mush.

    Mush with crunchy bits is not very appetizing.

    Yeah, that is the set I got–it was on super sale at the Chef’s catalogue about three years ago, so I snapped it up.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 9, 2005 #

  11. I was given a small generic pressure cooker by my mother when I was in my twenties (it’s barely above sea level here, so I don’t need the extra PSI). It cooks many things really fast, which is GREAT because I live in a very hot place, and I certainly don’t want the burner on for hours! Plus it gives me a ‘homey’ feeling, because I grew up listening to the hiss from both my mother and grandmother.

    As far as soaking beans, I used to because everyone said to. It wasn’t until recently I read about food experts performing tests and found out it didn’t make much of a difference, maybe a few minutes less cooking time. I haven’t soaked beans since — why bother with extra steps when it’s not necessary. We noticed NO difference between soaked and unsoaked beans as far as gassiness.

    Sherri

    Comment by Anonymous — September 9, 2005 #

  12. Hey, Sherri!

    I don’t always soak beans; I grew up not soaking them, but got into the habit of it in culinary school. So, if I remember to do it, fine, if I don’t eh, who cares?

    They cook fast either way in the pressure cooker!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 12, 2005 #

  13. Ha! I remembered that you had a post on pressure cookers a while back. I told myself not to buy one until I went back and read your post. Now that I have, I am even more convinced. The store I was at had the Fagor model you have with 2 units, steamer, glass top, etc., but it looked rather large for 2 people. I’ll look online for the 6 qt….although, it might be nice to have the options of the 4 and the 8 qt…. Do you ever use the smaller one, Barbara? Or is it too shallow to be useful?

    Comment by Brett — February 8, 2006 #

  14. Honestly, Brett–I have not used the smaller body of the pressure cooker. It is very small–too small, I think, to do much other than pressure steam something like artichokes or the like.

    The eight quart looks big for two people, but again–it is more versatile to have it be too large rather than too small. You will find that a pressure cooker is useful and you will figure out ways to use it all the time–even when you have folks over. That is when the extra space in the eight quart will come to your rescue.

    Also–it is good for beans–you want to leave extra headspace for beans when you cook them–they foam up, and you don’t want the foam to get up in the vent and clog it. So, you leave extra room at the top. With an eight quart cooker, you can still cook a good amount of beans–with a six quart, I think you would only make enough for two or four people for one meal–and when beans are really good–why not have leftovers.

    You will like the pressure cooker. You can make mashed potatoes, from scratch, in eight minutes. Bring the potatoes to a boil, clamp the lid down, bring to pressure, cook for five minutes, turn off heat, let sit for three minutes, release pressure, drain and mash. Boom. You are done. Beginning to end–fifteen minutes.

    Also–I know you like Madhur Jaffrey–so get her Quick and Easy Indian Cooking–she has a lot of pressure cooker recipes in there. Bohti Gosht, in particular, I originally got from that book, and I changed it later, but it is a great, unusual recipe.

    But really–if you already make Indian food often–it is simple to adapt recipes for the pressure cooker. I think you will enjoy doing it.

    Comment by Barbara — February 8, 2006 #

  15. Thanks for the insight. You’re quite a salesperson! I’ll probably get the larger one this week-although I can’t get over the fact that it’s so big. I usually use a 2.5 qt. pot to cook beans or potatoes, and I still have leftovers. But then I have to remind myself that you only fill a p.c. 2/3 full. And, like you said, beans produce a lot of foam.

    I have that MJ book already, but I haven’t cooked any of the pressure cooker recipes. I also think the p.c. would work well on Spanish and French braises. The Fagor, after all, is made in Spain-a selling point for me:-)

    Regarding braises, I have one last question that nags at me. I have always been a big proponent of cooking braises very slowly, at a low simmer with just a bubble or two on the surface. I find if they cook too fast, the meat dries out. So I guess the skeptic in me wonders how it is possible that meat cooked at a speed beyond a boil can not be dry. Are your braises from a p.c. really as good as the old-fashioned method? Do they ever come out dry?

    Comment by Brett — February 9, 2006 #

  16. Brett–the braises cooked in a pressure cooker will never turn out dry–unless you do a quick release on the pressure when you cook beef. For whatever reason, the fast temperature and pressure inversion affects beef, but does not seem to affect lamb or pork–though–if you are paranoid, just do a natural pressure release on them, too. What happens is that with the quick pressure inversion, on beef, liquid inside the meat is forced out into the cooking liquid and you get tough, dry meat.

    However, if you just take the cooker off the fire, and let the pressure reduce naturally as the cooker cools–a process that takes fifteen to twenty minutes–the juiciness and tenderness if phenominal.

    In fact–I would say that the flavors and texture I get in meat from the pressure cooker is far superior to what I get in traditional braising methods. So long as you brown the meat first in order to build flavor, and be sure and not over-cook it–the meat will be fork tender and delicious.

    It will still be tender if overcooked–so tender it falls apart into shreds. Which is great if you are making shredded beef or pork, but not so much when you want chunks or hunks of meat!

    Fear not–it is a good investment. (I feel like I should get kickbacks from Sumeet and Fagor, you know?)

    Stuffed peppers steamed in the pressure cooker are amazing too, btw.

    Comment by Barbara — February 9, 2006 #

  17. Hi Barbara, I like the look of your Posole recipe way back at the beginning of this… Have you heard the Magafesa or Magefesa brand of PC? I understand it is made in Spain – I can’t seem to be find a retailer in the Northern California Bay Area. There’s a bit of info online but not a lot. I read somewhere that it is better than the Kohn Rikon and was less expensive. Do you know of it and maybe where it’s sold?
    Thanks,
    Karen

    Comment by Karen M. — January 6, 2007 #

  18. This posole recipe is outstanding. Some years ago, my wife and I travelled to Taos, New Mexico for a ski vacation and there experienced posole for the first time. Ever since, I have brought back a few bags of Fernandez dried posole on each trip we take out West. However, finding a good and quick recipe has proved to be daunting.

    This one, while somewhat complex in its steps, is still only about an hour or so of preparation for a tremendous and hearty meal. Most of the steps are easily accomplished concurrently with the cooking. For instance, Once the onions were sauteeing, I started the garlic and rinsing the posole. Once the posole was in the cooker, I began working on the pinto beans and the pork. Next time, I would remove the onions before starting the pork — easier to brown the pork without having them in the way.

    We had a small challenge finding a small pork shoulder at our local Shaw’s market (all we saw were bone in at about 5-6 pounds), but buried in a corner, my wife managed to find a pre-packaged boneless shoulder at about 1.75 pounds. While more than required for the recipe, we used it all and with two hungry teens in the house, it was a good thing.

    We did not have tomatillos at the market, so used cherry tomatos as suggested, and it tasted just fine. I’m sure the tomatillos would have been great, but that will have to wait for the next round when my wife can get to Whole Foods beforehand.

    Finally, with the dry posole, I know it takes a long time to get it softened, so I went with several extra minutes in the final cooking. I probably could have gone even longer, but that might have destroyed everything else. Next time, I will leave it just a bit longer during each pressure stage.

    Everyone in my family loved it.

    Just a word on equipment — we had an older T-Fal pressure cooker that worked just fine. After watching Christina Pirello using the Kuhn-Rikon cookers, I bought one (yes, gasping at the price). Worth every penny. The T-Fal would usually burn a bit at the bottom in longer cooking operations. This one rarely does that, and I love: that I don’t need to search for the weight on top, it is very easy to see low and high pressure, it is much quieter than the typical units, and allows release of pressure using the top button. It also looks great. I am a whisker away from dropping the bucks for one of their pressure fry pans.

    Comment by Michael K. — December 30, 2007 #

  19. I forgot to ask – you suggest bringing the cooker to a boil and then closing the lid. I had always closed it down and then brought it to pressure (on the theory the pressure will begin building immediately, thus rasing temperature, which in turn raises the pressure faster, etc – the one thing I remember from high school thermodynamics). Barbara, can you please explain why you do it the other way?

    Comment by Michael K. — December 30, 2007 #

  20. Michael–I would love a pressure fry pan. Then I could make the crispiest fried chicken ever.

    The reason I bring the liquid to a boil before putting on the lid is because most instructions with pressure cookers say to do it that way. I don’t know why they do, but they do, so that is how I do it.

    Never really thought about it.

    Posole differs from brand to brand, type to type and batch to batch in how long it takes to cook–I have had a few bags of it take the time alloted in this recipe, while others will need extra cooking.

    I love posole–it is one of my favorite foods of winter.

    I’m glad you liked the recipe–and for future reference, if you cannot get as small a piece of meat as you need, for something like this, buy a bigger piece and cut it into two. Then you freeze half for later and use half right now.

    (Though if I am doing shredded pork or beef, I will braise the whole big thing, then shred it, and freeze half of it in shreds packed in the braising liquid. That way I have “fast food” in the freezer for nights when I don’t want to spend forever cooking.

    Comment by Barbara — December 30, 2007 #

  21. Thanks for this post, Barbara! I’ve been wanting to get a pressure cooker, but my husband was a bit sceptical about them – he worried that the meat won’t taste as tender as slow-cooked! Thanks for the info!

    Comment by Maninas — January 5, 2008 #

  22. Maninas–pressure cookers are the way to go. I really love mine much better than my slow cooker. It produces a product much better than a crock pot in my opinion with a fraction of the time. It tastes way more like it was braised in a pot on the stove or in the oven, and it is so fast!

    Comment by Barbara — January 7, 2008 #

  23. I dropped the lid of my Fagor/Rapida pressure cooker. It fits both of my pots, one is 4 L and the other is 6 L.
    The number under the 6L is 918060117.
    The non metal part broke and cannot keep the pressure in the pot.
    What is the cheapest way to replace the top handle.
    Since I have other parts like the glass cover, the steamer and the pasta insert, I am already invested in this model, on the other hand I don’t want them to over charge me for a replacement part.
    Any ideas?

    Comment by mira — May 25, 2008 #

  24. Mira,
    Please visit our website: http://www.fagoramerica.com
    You can purchase online the lid handle for your Rapida pressure cooker and it will be sent via UPS to you.

    Please call us at: 1-800-207-0806 or email us at: info@fagoramerica.com if you have any other questions. Thank you.

    Comment by Sara de la Hera — May 27, 2008 #

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