Review of Pressure Perfect Cookbook
If you’ve read much of my blog, you know I’m a huge fan of Lorna J. Sass. As far as I’m concerned, she is indeed the Queen of Pressure Cooking and I can’t sing her praises high enough (slight exaggeration, but I’m a big fan). Cooking Under Pressure is generally considered her seminal work, but when readers ask me if new pressure cooker owners could only buy one pressure cooking cookbook, Pressure Perfect: Two Hour Taste in Twenty Minutes Using Your Pressure Cooker is the one I recommend. Its the cookbook that taught me the fundamentals of pressure cooking, showed me what foods work well in the pressure cooker and which don’t, and made me feel comfortable enough with pressure cooking to start adapting and developing my own recipes. So you have her to thank (or blame) for this blog. Even now, years after purchasing my first pressure cooker, whenever I have a question regarding how long to cook something under pressure or whether a particular cut of meat is appropriate for pressure cooking, this is the first book I reach for: its my go to resource, especially when looking for pressure cooking information and timetables.
What I like best about Pressure Perfect is the extensive information and tips regarding pressure cooking, including tips on what to look for in a pressure cooker, a “getting to know your PC” section where you can keep basic important information regarding your pressure cooker as well as determine how much water it loses over various cooking times, an explanation of the basic terms, useful accessories and a troubleshooting section. But more than that, it has a great meat section that gives you detailed information about what cuts of meat work well in the pressure cooker and which don’t, as well as pressure cooking timetables for beef, lamb, pork, veal, chicken, Cornish game hens, turkey and fish. The Vegetables A to Z section contains not only concise timetables for cooking all the vegetables, but tips for preparing, pressure cooking and testing for doneness for artichokes, beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, collards, eggplant, green beans, kale, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabaga, winter squash, turnips, zucchini and yellow squash.
As for the recipes, what I like about them is they always seem to be well written and clear, I haven’t found one thus far that I disliked, and they seem carefully selected to take advantage of the pressure cooker’s strengths and advantages, not merely for the sake of having a pressure cooker recipe for a popular dish. For example, in the Soups and Broth chapter, the recipes feature ingredients like beets, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and black beans, where the pressure cooker can drastically reduce the cooking time of ingredients; quicker dishes like chicken noodle soup where the flavors are improved by pressure cooking; or homemade broths, which are both quicker and improved by cooking under pressure. As someone who has gone to the market repeatedly only to find they don’t have the cut of meat I wanted, I really appreciate that the author provides alternatives: for example, the pot roast recipe can be made with chuck or rump roast, veal, pork or even turkey breast, the beer braised ribs can be made with several different kinds of pork ribs, lamb ribs or beef ribs, and a pressure cooking timetable is included for all the possible meat cuts in each recipe. Its also really nice that many of the recipes have vegetarian options so vegetarians can enjoy this cookbook as well, or so meat eaters who are entertaining vegetarian friends or who are going temporarily meatless can adapt some of their favorite recipes.
Is there anything I don’t like about Pressure Perfect? Not much, but if I were going to quibble, the pasta and dessert sections seem a little short compared to the rest of the cookbook sections. I wish the publisher would issue a revised, updated edition with the Beans chapter containing the information, techniques and cooking charts from Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure: although the bean section in Pressure Perfect is very good, the corresponding chapter in Great Vegetarian Cooking is superlative. I do wonder why she included brassicas (broccoli) as one of the possible ingredients for the vegetable broth, I personally recommend pressure cooking many types of meat broth and stock for a longer period of time (up to 90 minutes), and its too bad she didn’t consider the benefits of pressure cooking corn or figure out a workaround for her problem for cooking artichokes over 9 ounces, but since I’ve taken care of both these for you (see Pressure Cooker Sweet Corn on the Cob Recipe and Pressure Cooker Jumbo Artichoke Recipe), its not an issue.
Special Ingredients. There’s nothing that frustrates me more than receiving a new cookbook, eagerly going through it, and deciding to make a particular recipe, only to realize a recommended ingredient or a needed piece of equipment is not readily available. So I’m alerting you in advance about some ingredients Lorna Sass recommends which may not be universally available: I want you to be able to order special ingredients along with the cookbook and not be disappointed because you can’t make something immediately. For the Curried Coconut, Chicken and Sweet Potato Soup, the author recommends Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder. Patak’s Mild Curry Paste is recommended for both the “Curry in a Hurry” and “Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Curry with Mango Chutney Yogurt Sauce” recipes. Patak’s Brinjal Eggplant Relish is recommended for an optional spicy hot topping on the Chicken Biryani. The Madras Chickpeas with Spinach recommends Merwanjee Poonjiajee & Sons’ Madras curry powder, but in fact, it’s the same Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder previously recommended for the Curried Coconut soup.
Equipment. For the Lemon Cheesecake and the Orange Ricotta Cheesecake recipes, you’ll need a 7″ Springform Pan. For the chocolate pots, you’ll need either Six (6) ½ cup / 4 Ounce Ramekins or Four (4) ¾ cup / 6 Ounce Ramekins. Lastly, all the bread pudding recipes can be made in either a 7 cup (56 ounce) porcelain souffle dish (the closest size I found was this 64 Ounce Porcelain Souffle Dish) – I can fit a 64 ounce souffle dish in both of my electric pressure cookers – or a round Pyrex casserole.
Summary. I heartily recommend Pressure Perfect for anyone from the owner of their first pressure cooker who wants to feel more comfortable with their pressure cooker and better understand how it works to the more experienced pressure cooker who wants to explore new cuts of meat, improve their pressure cooking skills or expand their recipe repertoire. I might make alternate recommendations if you wanted recipes for a specific kind of food (like fish) or different kinds of cuisine (Southern cooking, or if you were looking for Asian or Mexican pressure cooker recipes), but this cookbook is an excellent tool for cooks of every experience level.
Recipes. The recipes in this cookbook have an interesting format. Each recipe is written in detail, and then the author presents variations, “cook-alongs” and “transformations” of the recipe, the former being small tweaks that can be made to change the recipe slightly, “cook-alongs” being items you can add to the pot to serve with the meal, and transformations being more substantive alterations that will substantially alter the dish. This format gives you many more options and more recipes in the same amount of space. My advice is to read through the entire recipe, including the variations, cook alongs and transformations, to see which options you want to use, and be sure and adjust your shopping list accordingly. Nothing more frustrating than seeing an option you would have liked to try after doing your grocery run.
Meat, Poultry and Fish recipes include Pot Roast with Mushroom Gravy, German Style Pot Roast, Pot Roast with Light Tomato Sauce, Brisket with Mushroom Gravy, Beef in Beer and Mustard Gravy, Beef in Horseradish Cream Sauce, Brisket in Beer and Chili Sauce, Corned Beef with Cabbage and Potatoes, Delectable Meats in Gingered Plum Sauce, Delectable Meats with an Asian Accent, Beer Braised Ribs in Barbecue Sauce, Ribs with Honey Mustard Sauce, Ribs with Sesame Honey Mustard Sauce, Sauerkraut with Smoked Pork Chops Sausage Potatoes and Dill Sour Cream Sauce, Sauerkraut with Beans and Kielbasa, Lamb Shanks with White Beans, Bean and Lamb Shank Casserole, Osso Bucco with White Beans, Shrimp with White Beans, Classic Beef Stew, Rustic Lamb Stew, Hearty Beef Chili, Oxtail Stew, Goulash with Potatoes, Chicken Paprikash with Potatoes, Curry in a Hurry, Southwest Pork and Hominy Stew, Turkey and Hominy Stew, Cabbage and Potatoes with Kielbasa, Kale and Potatoes with Kielbasa, Cabbage Potato and Kielbasa Soup, Moroccan Lamb and Lentil Stew with Minted Yogurt (with vegetarian version), Moroccan Chicken and Lentil Stew, Meatloaf with Cheddar Smashed Potatoes, Frosted Meatloaf, Stuffed Meatloaf, Tex-Mex Meatloaf, Italian Meatloaf, Meatloaf Parmigiana, Jiffy Meatballs with Tomato Sauce, Porcupine Meatballs, Ground Lamb Meatballs with Greek Inspired Tomato Sauce, Pasta with Meatballs and Tomato Sauce, Mock Lasagne, Meatball Stroganoff, Meatball Stroganoff with Broad Noodles, Un-Stuffed Cabbage in Sweet and Sour Tomato Sauce, Quarter Hour Chili, Chili with Beans, Cuban Style Chili, Curried Lamb or Beef, Shredded Meat Tacos with Lime Cilantro Cream, Pulled Chili Seasoned Meats for Tacos, Cuban Inspired Shredded Meat over Rice, Pulled barbecue Meat on Buns, Mock Moo Shu Chicken or Pork with Flour Tortilla Pancakes, Whole Stuffed Chicken in Balsamic Fig Sauce, Cornish Hens in Balsamic Fig Sauce, Turkey Thighs in Balsamic Fig Sauce, Chicken Parts in Balsamic Fig Sauce, Whole Chicken in Balsamic Dried Tomato Sauce, Chicken Salad with Grapes and Tarragon Mayonnaise Dressing, Asian Chicken Salad with Sesame Soy Dressing, Indian Inspired chicken Salad with Mango Yogurt Dressing, Southwest Chicken Salad with Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette, Parmesan Chicken Packet, Tex Mex Chicken Packet, Chicken Packet with Hoisin Peanut Sauce, Chicken Packet with Asian Apricot Sauce, Chicken Packet with Yogurt Chutney Sauce, Chicken Cacciatore, Pasta and Chicken Cacciatore, Turkey Cacciatore, Three Bean Turkey Chili, Cajun Three Bean Turkey Stew, Fish with Sour Cream Dill Smashed Potatoes, Fish with Swiss Chard Potato Puree, Fish Packet with Puttanesca Sauce, Fish Packet with Salsa, Fish Packet with Lemon Caper Sauce, and Fish Packet with Sesame Soy Sauce.
Rice, Risotto and Whole Grains recipes include Basic White Rice, Casserole White Rice, Dilled Rice with Carrot Specks, Cumin Flecked Pilaf with Potatoes and Peas, Curried Rice and Potato Salad, Festive Rice with Fruits and Nuts, Festive Rice Salad, Festive Brown Rice, Spanish Rice with Chicken and Sausage, Chicken Jambalaya, Seafood and Chicken Jambalaya, Seafood and Chicken Paella, Chicken Biryani, Lamb Biryani, Vegetable Biryani (vegetarian), Rice with Mussels, Rice with Smoked Fish, Thai Coconut Rice with Shrimp, Basic Risotto, Risotto Milanese, Risotto du Jour, Risotto with Butternut Squash, Risotto with Ham Gruyere and Peas, Risotto with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Smoked Mozzarella, Risotto with Fresh Sausage White Beans and Tomato, Shrimp Risotto, Risotto with Chickpeas, Spinach and Raisins, Porcini Risotto, Barley Risotto with Lamb, Barley and Winter Vegetable Risotto, Scotch Broth, Basic Whole Grains, Cranberry Nut and Brown Rice Pilaf, Cranberry Nut and Brown Rice Stuffing, Brown Rice Pilaf with Raisins Chickpeas and Spinach, Brown Rice Waldorf Salad with Orange Marmalade Dressing, Brown Rice Tabbouleh, Fruit and Nut Tabbouleh, Tabbouleh with Greek Flavors, and Lentil Tabbouleh.
Pasta recipes include Pasta with Meat Sauce, Pasta with Mushroom Sauce (vegetarian), Pasta with Seafood and Tomato Sauce, North African Lamb with Pasta, Ziti with Three Cheeses, Ziti with Meat or Fresh Sausage, Ziti with Mushrooms, Ziti Casserole, Chicken Noodle Casserole with Mushroom Sauce, Turkey Noodle Casserole, Penne with Winter Squash and Ricotta (including vegetarian version), Orzo Risotto with Wild Mushrooms, and Asian Orzo Risotto with Shiitake.
Beans recipes include Basic Beans in Aromatic Broth, Smashed Beans, Multi Bean Soup, Hummus, Parsley Hummus, Red Pepper Hummus with Toasted Cumin Seeds, Jalapeno Hummus, Chickpea Tahini Soup with Roasted Red Pepper, Sub Limey Refried Beans, Beans with Barbecue Sauce, Bean Tostada, Garlicky Lima Beans with Tomatoes, Lima Beans with Butter and Fines Herbes, Lima Bean Salad with Zucchini Corn and Lemon-Oregano Vinaigrette, Garlicky Lima Bean Soup with Tomatoes, Bean Salad Nicoise, Southwest Bean and Tuna Salad, Bean and Feta Salad, White Bean Brushetta, Beefed Up Beans, Bean Stew with Short Ribs, Beefed Up Bean Soup, Beans with Sausage and Greens, Madras Chickpeas with Spinach, Chickpea Spinach and Lamb Curry, and Black Beans with Soft Tortilla Chips.
Desserts recipes include Rice Pudding, Tropical Rice Pudding, Maple Walnut Rice Pudding, Chocolate Chip Rice Pudding, Cranberry Orange Rice Pudding, Lemon Cheesecake, Mocha Chip Cheesecake, Cappuccino Cheesecake, Chocolate Marble Cheesecake, Lemon Cheesecake with Fruit Swirl, Orange Ricotta Cheesecake, Chocolate Marble Ricotta Cheesecake, Little Chocolate “Pots”, Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding, Mocha Chip Bread Pudding, Cranberry Orange Bread Pudding, Easy Applesauce, Chunky Applesauce, Applesauce with Rhubarb, Cranapple Sauce, Pear Sauce, Savory Applesauce with Sage, Pears and Figs in Mulled Wine, Dried Fruit Compote with Crystallized Ginger and Stewed Prunes with Anise and Orange.