I like shopping at Aldi. It's got cheap staples next to a changing series of specials that makes the whole trip feel like a treasure hunt. (Will the smoked pepperjack I bought once and never saw again make a return appearance? Will there be a bargain wine with an owl or some other cute critter on the bottle? Will they have veggie burgers this week? I am so boring that I think these are exciting mysteries...)
Aldi recently sold pressure cookers as a weekly special, and I had to dig out another old pressure cooker cookbook to remind myself that no, I do not need a pressure cooker. This time, the "Deluxe Mirro-Matic Pressure Pan" (1958) booklet did the honors.
Mostly, it reminded me that I'd have to make a hell of a lot of dried beans to break even on the cost of a pressure cooker, and I like canned beans-- which take even less effort than pressure cooked ones-- just fine.
The booklets always make it look as if pressure cookers are good for pretty much everything, though. They not only reduce cooking time on dried beans and dense vegetables, but they can do so much more! Did you know you could make fried chicken in one?
Well, fried chicken if your definition of fried chicken is pretty loose. The recipe shows you just brown the chicken in a little fat first, then basically steam it on a rack in the pressure cooker for 18-25 minutes. Then reduce the pressure, wait, and broil the chicken "to crisp" (because it must come out pretty soggy after all that steam).... Or you could just, you know, fry the chicken. It probably wouldn't even take as long since you wouldn't have to fire up the broiler to crisp it up when you were done. That method wouldn't require a pressure cooker, though, so it is right out!
Since I've been a bit obsessed lately, I noticed that this booklet has a recipe for pigs in a blanket too, and it's again, not like any of the others I've found so far:
Here, the "pigs" are slices of round steak and the "blankets" are bacon and onion. I'm starting to think the term "pigs in a blanket" has no meaning at all! The FDA should write some standards of identity for these things. (The cooking time of 25-30 minutes, plus cooling, does not strike me as being particularly short, either....)
My favorite recipe, though, might be this one:
How did this get named "hot tamales"? The ingredients are heated up, sure, but there is nothing else hot about them, unless people somehow thought green peppers, Worcestershire sauce, or pepper were "hot."
There's no tamale about these, either-- no masa, no corn husks. The tomato soup-y glop is supposed to be served on split buns. Might as well call this what it really is: slightly-less-sweet-than-usual sloppy joes, which you can make in about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker, or in about 20 minutes in a skillet.
In short, a lot of the time-saving bluster looks like it's bullshit. The number of times a pressure cooker will really come to the rescue is too short to fill out even a smallish booklet that comes with the pan.
In short, I triumphed over my impulse to buy a pressure cooker once again. Thanks Mirro-Matic!