For hectic days when you don't have time to fuss with an entrée and the side dishes, your pressure cooker can come to the rescue. You can set whole potatoes or a bowl of rice atop your meat and pressure it all in one sitting. Here's how to make it happen.
"Baked" Potatoes: Place whole potatoes atop stew, roast, or other cuts of meat that take longer than 15 minutes (for medium) or 26-30 minutes (for large) to cook. Your potatoes will be moist and tender when your meal is complete.
Rice: Use a 6-quart or larger cooker and a recipe that needs to be cooked longer than 5 minutes and uses natural pressure release. Use either an aluminum foil or cheesecloth sling to lower an oven-proof glass or porcelain dish easily into the pressure cooker. Be sure that the pressure cooker isn't over 2/3 full, when casserole dish sits atop the stew or other entrée. You can also cook the rice in the dish atop the trivet. Mix rice, water, and salt together in the dish and place in cooker (using sling). Lock the lid and bring the pot up to pressure. Cook for at least 5 minutes, and then allow the pressure to release naturally to complete the cooking process. Remove lid and test the rice. If undercooked, cover the casserole tightly with plastic wrap and continue to steam in remaining heat, or finish cooking it in the microwave for a few minutes. For use in a stew, simply stir undercooked rice into the stew and cook conventionally until completely tender.
For 3 cups cooked rice, use 1 cup rice, 1-1/2 cups water,
and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
For 4 cups cooked rice, use 1-1/2 cups rice,
2-1/4 cups water, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
For 6 cups cooked rice, use 2 cups rice, 3 cups water,
and 1 teaspoon salt.
Pasta: Stir short pasta shapes (penne, rigatoni, elbow, ziti, etc.) into your tomato or other pasta sauces to steam and infuse pasta with flavor in 5 minutes under pressure. Avoid using long pasta (spaghetti, fettuccine, linguine), though as it clumps. To adapt pasta recipes for the pressure cooker, add 1/2 cup additional water or other liquid for every 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of pasta.
For tomato based sauces, use thick tomato products (crushed tomatoes in puree or 28-oz can plum tomatoes + 6 oz can of tomato paste). Water hardly evaporates when tomato sauce is used, making for a runny textured sauce. Place the tomatoes atop the pasta, instead of at the bottom of the pot, and then don't stir. Tomatoes tend to scorch at the high heat needed to bring the cooker up to pressure when sitting on the pot's bottom.
For better flavor infusion, let the dish set for 3-5 minutes after pressure release before lifting the lid. After pressure release, stir the meal well to break up any noodles sticking together. Test for doneness. If undercooked or unevenly cooked, replace the lid and cook over very low heat until pasta is completely done.
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