Holiday Pressure Cooking
I had such high hopes for the pressure cooking recipes and the content I would create for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but I’m afraid several extended family illnesses, caregiving and trying to help my family through the probate process took up most of the year. I’ll do much better for the holidays in 2016.
But in the meantime, I thought I would point out some of the ways using an electric pressure cooker can really help you during the holidays. To me, two of the biggest problems with holiday cooking are first, there always seems to be a shortage of free burners on the stove, room in the oven and available counter space, and second, that its hard for the cook to juggle multiple different dishes on the stovetop that are all vying for our attention. Because it’s a stand alone unit, an electronic pressure cooker can work anywhere there’s an electrical plug: you can place several of them on top of the sideboard in the living room, making recipes like my Pressure Cooker Mashed Potatoes and/or Pressure Cooker Soups. This frees up burners and counter space in the kitchen, you don’t have to pay attention to the soups until you’re ready to serve, and you can use the pressure cookers as chafing dishes to keep the food warm until you’re ready to eat. As for the mashed potatoes, the pressure cooker will keep them hot until you are ready to mash, then you can just put them back in the machine on the “Keep Warm” setting until you’re ready to serve them.
When most people think of pressure cookers, they think primarily of meat and beans. And while pressure cookers do a great job of braising your roast until its meltingly tender or allowing you to make beans and other legumes quickly, without an overnight soak, there’s so much more you can make with them, and there’s a lot you can make for the holidays, too. As you can see from the cookbook recipes I’ve listed below, you can use your electric pressure cooker to make a wide range of hot dips for your vegetables and crackers, all sorts of flavored meatballs for your appetizers, and a wide range of soups: from elegant French onion and potato leek soup to homemade cream of mushroom and chicken and wild rice soups or fall and holiday soups made from sweet potato or winter squashes that can be made in a fraction of the time they would normally take. For holiday main courses, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, there are recipes for turkey breasts, a Cornish game hen, ham, pork loin roast, leg of lamb, lamb chops and lamb shanks, and sirloin beef roast with mushroom sauce, a veal recipe, and a rolled flank steak that’s stuffed with parmesan cheese and spinach.
For your side dishes, you can make all sorts of potato dishes in them, from the classic mashed potatoes to potatoes boulangere to smashed and skillet red potatoes and both sweet and savory sweet potato recipes. If you prefer rice, there are lots of risotto dishes that can be made with very little active stirring and in a fraction of the time it takes to make it on the stovetop, there are wild rice, rice stuffing, and pilaf recipes. For vegetables, there are holiday favorites such as green bean casserole and mac and cheese, and a number of recipes for traditional holiday fare, including carrots, parsnips, winter squash, brussels sprouts, leeks, broccoli and artichokes. And while you may not think of pressure cookers and desserts, there’s a wide range of sweets you can make in them, many cheesecake recipes, custards, puddings, sweet and savory bread puddings, rice pudding, poached fruit, cherries jubilee and fruit compotes to serve over ice cream, and even fruitcakes.
And don’t forget New Years! If you want to follow the Southern tradition, there are a number of recipes for collard greens and black eyed peas (Hoppin’ John) and even a cornbread recipe made in the pressure cooker. Serve the Hoppin’ John with a coin under the bowl and remind your family and guests that the tradition is to leave three black eyed peas on your plate to assure the New Year will be filled with luck, fortune and romance (though maybe your younger kids won’t want to leave the third pea on their plate). If you would like to take the New Years tradition even farther south, tamales are traditional fare for special days like Christmas and New Years, and Pressure Cooker Gourmet not only gives you a basic pressure cooker tamales recipe, but four different fillings (creamed corn, shredded chicken in tomatillo sauce filling, black bean and plantain tamale filling and a spicy beef filling) and a mint lime butter to serve them with.
Comfortable Under Pressure soup and finger food recipes include Sweet Potato and Fennel Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons, Creamy Potato Leek Soup, Asian Meatballs and Greek Meatballs with Cucumber Yogurt Dip. For those who want to have something other than roast beef or turkey for the holidays, main course recipes include Pork Loin with Apples and Pears and Leg of Lamb with Lemon Mint and Honey. Side recipes include Risotto with Butternut Squash and Sage, Wild Mushroom and Lemon Risotto, Quinoa with Cinnamon and Raisins, Wild Rice with Mushrooms and Peas, Wild Rice with Pecans Cranberries and Parsley, Farrotto with Asparagus and Lemon, Farrotto with Wild Mushrooms and Chives, Spicy Fennel with Pinenuts and Currants, Pumpkin Pie Spiced Sweet Potatoes, Parsnip and Sweet Potato Mash with Brown Butter, Sweet Potato and Apple Mash, Collard Greens with Smoked Ham, Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan Parsley and Breadcrumbs, Carrots with Orange and Rosemary, Buttery Braised Leeks, Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Parmesan, Steamed Artichokes with Lemon Aioli, Beets with Tarragon and Orange Balsamic and Potatoes Boulangere. Dessert recipes include Poached Pears and Peaches, Rum Raisin Rice Pudding, Port Cherry Compote and Blueberry Cinnamon Compote (serve either over ice cream), Stewed Apples and Plums, Caramel Pots de Crème, Dark Chocolate and Orange Pots de Crème, Vanilla Cheesecake, White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake, Bread and Butter Pudding, Annie’s Chocolate Hazelnut Banana Bread and Butter Pudding, Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding and Toffee Apple Bread Pudding.
Pressure Cooker Perfection has the best pressure cooker macaroni and cheese recipe I’ve tried so far, and it is really easy to make: no making a béchamel beforehand, its literally so quick and easy you could make it for a weeknight dinner, and delicious enough to serve at a Christmas dinner. In fact, the mac n’ cheese is so good, when my nephew tried some for the first time, without consulting his parents, he invited me on the spot to come live with them. Just one piece of advice that the folks at America’s Test Kitchen didn’t emphasize enough: add the shredded sharp cheddar to the pasta FIRST, and incorporate the other cheese last. Because its been aged longer, sharp cheddar is drier, and doesn’t melt as easily as other kinds of cheese, even mild or medium cheddar. If you add it first, the heat and the loose starch will help it melt more easily. Other recipes you could make for the holidays include Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Cranberries, Sirloin Beef Roast with Mushroom Sauce, Turkey Breast and Gravy, Parmesan Risotto, Mashed Butternut Squash, Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Buttermilk Smashed Red Potatoes. And for New Year’s, there’s even a Braised Collard Greens with Bacon recipe that’s traditionally eaten (along with cornbread) in the South on New Years Day to help bring you riches for the coming year.
Slow Food Fast has a number of recipes that would make great appetizers or first courses for your holiday meal: Butternut Squash Soup, Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Spinach and Artichoke Hummus, Swedish Meatballs (that were so good I don’t have a finished picture to show you because we ate them all up on the spot). For entrees, there are recipes for Cornish Game Hens with Garlic and Rosemary, Turkey Tetrazzini (for your leftover Thanksgiving turkey), Turkey Tenderloin with Cranberry Orange Glaze, Two Can Cola Pork Roast, Ham Steaks with Pineapple Cherry Glaze, Pork Loin with Milk Gravy, Braised Lamb Shanks with Lemon and Mint, and Veal Francaise. Side dish recipes include Green Bean Casserole, Cauliflower with Cheese Sauce, Skillet Red Bliss Potatoes, Maple Butter Glazed Carrots, Herbed Green Beans Carrots and Cranberries, Loaded Scalloped Potatoes, Candied Sweet Potatoes with Pecans, Asparagus Risotto, Wild Rice Almandine, Apple Brown Rice Stuffing, Portabella Risotto, Risotto with Gorgonzola and Walnuts and Roasted Garlic and Lemon Risotto. Dessert recipes that would be great for the holidays include Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, Rum Raisin Bread Pudding, Coconut Custard, Cinnamon Apples with Granola and Ice Cream, Pumpkin Cheesecake and Gingersnap Pear Bread Pudding.
Great Food Fast has a number of appetizer and soup recipes that you could make for the holidays, including Broccoli and Cheese Soup, Chicken and Wild Rice Soup, French Onion Soup, Porcupine Meatballs, Taco Dip, Toasted Walnut Hummus, Game Day Sausage Dip, Black Eyed Pea Dip and Creamy Eggplant Dip. For entrees, there’s a Pork Loin Roast (with a cherry Dijon sauce), Apple Cider Pork Roast, Apricot Glazed Pork Loin Roast and Tender Stuffed Flank Steak (with spinach and Parmesan cheese). Side recipes include a savory sausage bread pudding, butternut squash risotto, Brussels Sprouts (with bacon and onions), Broccoli and Cheese Mashed Potatoes, Squash Casserole (with a cheese sauce and chopped pecans), Cheesy Spoonbread, Collard Greens, Loaded Mashed Potatoes and Barley Risotto with Fresh Spinach. There’s even a whole section on holiday cooking, which include recipes for Cranberry Meatballs, Sweet Potato Casserole, Moist Stuffing from Scratch, Stuffed Turkey Cutlets, Parsnip and Rutabaga Mash, Spiced Rice Pilaf, Eggnog Rice Pudding, Figgy Bread Pudding, Croissant Bread Pudding with Apples and Raisins and Apple Cranberry Chutney. Dessert recipes you could make for the holidays include poached pears, Poached Peach Cups, Smores Bread Pudding, Cherries Jubilee (serve over pound cake or ice cream) and cheesecake.
I made the Moist Stuffing from Scratch for Thanksgiving, and I’ve already received repeated requests to make it again. It is a very good basic stuffing recipe, and I was pleasantly surprised that although it was indeed moist as advertised, the bread cubes still had some texture, even the next day when I reheated the stuffing. I should mention that although I normally follow pressure cooker cookbook instructions religiously when I plan to review them, in this case I was forced to deviate slightly. I had purchased some bread I was drying naturally for the stuffing recipe, but unfortunately, I forgot that unenriched bread will go bad more quickly, and a bit of mold showed up before it dried out. I had to toss it and get fresh bread. But because I didn’t have enough time to let the replacement bread dry naturally, I cut the bread into cubes and toasted them in the oven at 350°F for 20 minutes to brown, then reduced the oven to 200° F for a further 30 minutes to really dry the bread cubes out. When I added the bread crumbs to the wet ingredients and mixed them in, they were so dry that they soaked up all the liquid immediately and I had to add another ½ cup of chicken broth so the pressure cooker could come up to pressure. The browned bread cubes actually made the stuffing tastier, so my recommendation would be not to allow the bread to dry out naturally, to toast the bread cubes as soon as you buy it (you can store the toasted bread cubes for a number of days and make the stuffing fresh the day of service) and be sure if you toast the bread to add at least ½ cup more chicken broth than is called for in the recipe.
Miss Vickie’s Big Book of Pressure Cooking Recipes is a truly massive cookbook, with almost four hundred pressure cooking recipes, so there are plenty of recipes you can make for the holidays. There are too many for me to list completely, but I can point out some of the highlights. Soup recipes include Beef and Barley Soup, Beefy French Onion Soup, Turkey Carcass Soup (for your leftover turkey), homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup and Cream of Sweet Potato Soup. Entrée recipes include Braised Beef Brisket with Horseradish Sauce, Cranberry Braised Turkey Breast, Wine Braised Turkey Breast with Mushroom Gravy, Cola Cooked Ham with Yams, Baked Ham with Pineapple Raisin Sauce, Lamb Chops with Port Wine Mushroom Sauce and Lamb Chops with au Gratin Potatoes. There are several recipes for New Years, Black Eyed Peas n’ Greens and Black Eyed Peas and Greens with Sausage, Hoppin’ John, Mashed Potatoes and Greens and Southern Greens with Roots and Pot “Likker” (in the South, its traditional to eat collard greens and cornbread on New Years Day to bring financial prosperity, and black eyed peas (also known as cowpeas) to bring good luck). Holiday side recipes include Brussels Sprouts in Parmesan Cheese Sauce, Broccoli Florets with Hollandaise Sauce, Parsnips and Carrots with Orange Butter Sauce, Buttered Red Potatoes with Garlic and Parsley, eight different kinds of mashed potatoes and Tropical Treat Sweet Potatoes.
The picture above is of the Cola Cooked Ham with Yams, though I did make some small tweaks to the recipe (and the ham shown in the picture were leftovers that were reheated in a skillet). I was in a hurry, so I went ahead and peeled the yams before pressure cooking, because I knew the acid in the Coca Cola would help reinforce the pectin in the cell walls, and help keep the sweet potatoes intact, even without the skins. I really liked the subtle spiced flavor the cooking liquid and spices gave the sweet potatoes, and I suspect the flavor was enhanced because the yams were peeled, so I’d recommend doing that even though it isn’t in the recipe. Also, I liked the flavor of the cooking liquid enough that I strained it, put it in the refrigerator overnight so I could remove any excess fat (or you could use a fat separator) and then thickened it into a sauce with some potato starch.
Dessert recipes include Molten Mocha Brownie Pudding with Chocolate Mint Sauce, a Master Bread Pudding (with six sweet variations that include fresh and dried fruit, nuts, and Eggnog Bread Pudding), Chocolate Malt Cheesecake, Caramel Apple Pudding, Rice Pudding, Master Tapioca Pudding (with five variations), Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie Pudding, Pecan Praline Cheesecake with Hot Fudge Caramel Sauce, Peppery Spiced Poached Apples with Spiced Whipped Cream and a Master Custard Cup recipe (with six variations, including Maple Custard, Caramel Custard and Butterscotch Custard). And unique to all the pressure cooker cookbooks, there’s an entire chapter on fruitcakes. You read that right: you can use your pressure cooker to make homemade fruit cake. If you want to know how interesting and compelling this fruitcake chapter is, I’ve never had a good fruitcake, I’ve only had terrible store-bought ones with those awful red and green candied “fruits”, I have no warm and fuzzy memories of fruitcake, only bad ones, but after reading this chapter, I immediately ordered my dried fruits and Unbleached Muslin recommended to wrap it in. I don’t even drink, but after reading this recipe, I was dying to make this boozy, fruity, nutty confection. I’ve got one “ripening” in the refrigerator right now and I’ve penciled in on my calendar for next year when to start making them for next year, too. Fortunately, Miss Vickie tells you how to make both light and dark fruitcakes, and how to make both “quick” and aged fruit cakes, so if you don’t get to it until a few weeks beforehand like I did, you can still have fruitcake, and if you want to prepare your Thanksgiving or Christmas dessert months in advance for a fully aged and decadent fruitcake, you can do that, too.